Not vocal? Then why is the Twins' Joe Mauer quoted on a T-shirt?
MINNEAPOLIS—Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer has a reputation for being quiet in the clubhouse, but if that's the case, why did Twins players wear T-shirts featuring a quote from their elder teammate on Saturday, Aug. 25?
"Vocal doesn't mean volume," manager Paul Molitor said.
Identified as "St. Paul's Finest" on the back, Mauer inspired the T-shirts after hitting a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the seventh inning of a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Target Field on Aug. 17.
When he learned he was out of the starting lineup that Friday evening, Mauer told third base coach Gene Glynn, "You never know what's going to happen when you show up at the old ball yard."
That story was relayed to the team during a postgame meeting usually run by Mauer. Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, whose Twins tenure is surpassed only by Mauer, was the driving force behind the T-shirts.
"First of all, you don't hear people say 'ball yard,' " Gibson said. "That's like a traditional, deep way to talk about it. It think there are a lot of things about that (quote) that are perfect for Joe and perfect for this team."
The book on Mauer is that he isn't a vocal leader—"That's what they say, I guess," he said.—but he's been running a postgame meeting during which he gives out a game ball after every victory.
"We had a young team, and I was just trying to get them to realize there are a lot of little things that go into winning a big-league ballgame," Mauer said.
Molitor said Mauer generally uses the game-ball meetings to draw attention to the smaller things that contribute to a victory.
The Twins are 12-9 since Aug. 3, despite the fact that the front office traded away second baseman Brian Dozier, starter Lance Lynn, third baseman Eduardo Escobar and reliever Ryan Pressly ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. A week later, closer Fernando Rodney was traded to Oakland in a waiver-wire deal.
At Target Field, the Twins are 21-8 since June 24.
Mauer said he wasn't concerned the team would fall apart after being partially dismantled at the trade deadline but said, "I just figured it was part of my job to remind people."
"I don't think they needed that, but it's definitely something that I didn't want to go by the wayside," he added, "because there is a lot out there saying all sorts of things, but I wanted them to know that we still have good group here and we need to still give it our best every night."
Former Twins slugger Jim Thome was at Target Field on Saturday for a pre-game celebration of his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July.
Thome, 47, hit his 600th career home run in a Twins uniform and already had been feted at similar ceremonies in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Chicago (White Sox). Now working in the White Sox front office as an assistant to general manager Rick Hahn, he said he has enjoyed becoming familiar with the advanced analytics that weren't popular, or even around, when he was a player.
But he hasn't been tempted to look up his sabermetric career numbers.
"I've been asked, 'What would your exit velocity be?' I don't want to say I haven't bought into the launch angle, but I like level," he said. "I like a level swing. I struck out a bunch, so I can only imagine how much more I would have struck out if I had tried to hit the bottom of the ball."
"The practice, the approach, was to come through the ball and swing level and try to hit the whole baseball instead of lift it bottom up. I would have loved to have known the exit velocity; not so much the launch angle."
Right-hander Michael Pineda, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, has been shut down because of soreness in his right knee, Molitor said. He will be examined by team doctors in Minneapolis on Sunday, likely followed by an MRI test on Monday.
Pineda had thrown a combined 12 innings in minor league rehab appearances with at three minor league levels. The Twins signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract last winter assuming he would be ready to pitch in 2019.
"When he threw his bullpen the other day, he thought he should back down," Molitor said. "We all know he's at a point where we're not going to push anything, especially with him recovering from an arm injury."
Byron Buxton, rehabbing a strained left wrist at Rochester, is scheduled to play three consecutive games this weekend. He hasn't played in the majors since May 29 because of migraines, a broken toe and his latest injury.
Molitor said it's likely that Buxton, 24, will complete the Triple-A schedule — the Red Wings have 10 games remaining — before being recalled.
"We're mostly concerned with how that wrist has responded to playing," Molitor said. "We're giving him a chance to back it up today and tomorrow. That will be a different type of test playing three days in a row. We'll see how he tolerates that."