Friday, April 29, 2011

A Perfect Storm: Joe Mauer's Leg Injury

Mauer's injury has been the Perfect Storm
The Twins didn't offer much excitement in two games at Target Field yesterday. The Rays put an emphatic stamp on a three-game series sweep by pounding the Twins by a combined score of 21-4 in the day/night doubleheader.

The biggest story for the Twins might have been what occurred off the field. Joe Mauer was eligible to come off of the disabled list on Thursday but that did not happen. Mauer was not expected to come off of the DL but some of the other insights that were released yesterday could show a scary side to his current predicament.

When I originally heard about the Mauer injury as bilateral leg weakness, the injury sounded pretty scary. There can be a connection to the spinal cord and other serious medical conditions. The Twins shielded that worry a little bit when the team said that some of his soreness might be connected to the viral infection he obtained. As a fan, I stepped back, took a deep breath, and said, "Ok, maybe this isn't so bad."

The Twins had head trainer Rick McWane sat in on Ron Gardenhire's pre-game press conference. He provided an interesting thought on the connection between the Mauer's leg weakness and the viral infection  that impacted him last week. Originally the Twins had stated that there could be a link between these two conditions. Yesterday McWane clearly stated that "there's no connection between his virus and the orthopedic injuries." All of a sudden, a storm is brewing for the Twins.

Mauer held his own press conference between games yesterday to discuss his frustration with the way things are going. A lot of his frustration stems from the fact that he does not have a timetable for his return, he does not want to change positions, and he has not felt right all season. The Twins and Mauer keep saying that his injury situation has been the perfect storm, all the wrong things are happening at the same time.

Here is a look at each of those frustrations that Mauer is having with his perfect storm of an injury:

No timetable for return
The Twins need Mauer to be his old self and the Mauer that showed up at the beginning of this season wasn't not the Mauer of old. There was something missing in his legs and his swing was just not there to start the year. Mauer is not even getting a timetable from the team yet, so it could be a few more weeks before Mauer is even able to make his rehab starts for the Twins. At this point, my hope is the middle to end of May for the return of Mauer.

Change of position
Mauer has faced this question for most of his career and if he continues to get injured, the question will still haunt him in the future. There is no way the Twins will change Mauer's position in the middle of a season. In his press conference today, Mauer clearly stated that he is getting healthy to be the catcher of the Minnesota Twins. "That's what I signed here to do -- to catch." Needless to say the Butera/Holm combo has not been outstanding. On top of that the Twins have very little depth of major league ready catchers in the minor leagues.

Not feeling right all season
This year's spring training was irregular for Mauer as he recovered from offseason knee surgery. The Twins gave Mauer plenty of time-off from catching and allowed their superstar to ease back in to his duties behind the plate. Mauer put some of the blame on his weird spring training, some of the blame on the virus, and some of the blame on the bilateral leg weakness. He tried to play through the injury but his body was fighting back with a perfect storm of injuries for the star catcher.

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