Game 2: All eyes on Joe Mauer

When Joe Mauer stepped to the plate in the first inning of Friday’s spring home opener at Hammond Stadium, he drew the biggest ovation from the crowd of any Twins player.

Perhaps that’s because Twins fans want to remind the catcher just how much he’s loved in Minnesota.

All eyes have been focused this spring on the catcher’s contract status and that was intensified on Thursday with the news that Mauer’s agent, Ron Shapiro, was at Twins camp in Fort Myers, Fla.

Shapiro is expected to remain in Fort Myers this weekend. The two sides are still negotiating a contract extension for the reigning AL MVP, although neither will comment publicly on it, so more face-to-face talks are likely to take place while he’s in town. Still, Shapiro’s presence in camp doesn’t necessarily mean that a deal is close. So far there have been no indications from either side that anything is imminent.

There have been plenty of questions directed to Mauer this spring about his contract, although the catcher has politely chosen not to discuss specifics about talks taking place. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Mauer, who prefers to stay out of the spotlight, has been holding up well despite all of the attention.

“He’s fine. Joe’s so quiet, you don’t even know. …
He’s just Joe,” Gardenhire said. “He goes about his business. He’s preparing for the
season, and all the other things take care of themselves. The only time
he talks about it is when somebody asks him.”

Here are a few other notes from today:

— Loek Van Mil, the 7-foot-1 pitcher from the Netherlands,
is going to have another MRI done on his right shoulder. Van Mil, who has been bothered by shoulder tendinitis, threw one pitch in a bullpen session today before shutting it down.

–Nick Punto is expected to make his spring debut on Sunday in one of the Twins’ split squad games. Punto, who underwent minor surgery on his right wrist at the end of January, has taken one session of live batting practice so far this spring. The club was going to try to get him another one but Gardenhire said there were not enough pitchers due to the fact there is a split squad this weekend.

–Carl Pavano was pleased with the way he threw in Friday’s contest, tossing two scoreless innings while allowing one hit, walking two and striking out one. He said that he’s been working on a mechanical adjustment with pitching coach Rick Anderson to get himself better extended out toward home plate in his delivery and he said he feels it’s starting to help already.

–Shortstop Estarlin De Los Santos is expected to get back to seeing action on the field after the team’s off day on Wednesday, Gardenhire said.

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