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01/28/11 9:26 PM EST

Mauer 'on track' but not pushing recovery

BLAINE, Minn. -- Joe Mauer had a piece of advice for Joe Nathan when the two were working out at Target Field on Friday morning. And that was to remind Nathan, who missed all of the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery, that his focus should be on being ready for Opening Day on April 1 and not necessarily the start of Spring Training.

"You could just see he's chomping at the bit," Mauer said during the first day of the team's annual TwinsFest. "I'm trying to get in his ear, saying April 1st, April 1st. It's still January."

It's advice that Mauer is trying to take for himself as well.

Mauer has been working to get his left knee healthy after undergoing a minor cleanup procedure back in December. Over the past few weeks, the catcher has been working out down at the Twins' Spring Training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., and he gave a positive report on how his knee is doing.

But Mauer stressed that, like he told Nathan, he doesn't necessarily need to push himself to be 100 percent for the first workout for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 18.

"I'm taking that to heart, too," Mauer said of his advice. "I should be ready to go when we report, but I just have to be smart about it and get ready for the season."

Staying healthy hasn't exactly been easy for Mauer in recent years. In 2009, he missed the first month of the season due to inflammation in his lower back, and last season, the catcher was banged up with a variety of ailments throughout the season. That included a deep bruise in his left heel that caused him to miss a week of playing time in early May and soreness in his left knee that bothered him for the final few weeks of the season, affecting him during the playoffs as well.

"Last year, I got beat up pretty early, and when you have injuries, stuff like that early in the season, you deal with it the whole year," Mauer said. "Playing baseball we don't have six days to get healthy, we're playing seven days a week. You start compensating, and that just leads to another thing, so coming into this year, you try to take care of yourself as much as you can.

"I'm still trying to strengthen my legs, and just get in shape," he added. "With camp this year, I'm trying to take it like I'm getting ready for April 1. So I'm doing good; I'm on track."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked if he will try to do anything differently with Mauer this year in order to keep the catcher healthy. Gardenhire said he will always try to find ways to ease the wear and tear on Mauer, but he stressed it's not easy to prevent those bumps and bruises.

"Injuries happen in the game and catchers get beat up more than others," Gardenhire said. "For him to get that inflammation in his knee, there is no way to stop it. We're going to catch him. He's an All-Star, he's our go-to guy. He's going to do most of the catching. ... Obviously as a manager you try to do the best you can with resting a guy and giving him as many days. You rely on the players to tell me when and when not to. Normally Joe is pretty good at that."

Gardenhire did say that Mauer would probably get one day off every week as it's likely that backup catcher Drew Butera will continue to be Carl Pavano's primary catcher.

Target Field batter's eye to be improved

MINNEAPOLIS -- The batter's eye at Target Field will look slightly different when the Twins open up the 2011 season.

Twins president Dave St. Peter said Friday that the team plans to remove the 14 black spruce trees that are currently behind the center-field wall. Hitters, for both the Twins and visiting teams, have complained that the trees were a distraction. The hitters have said the trees make it difficult to see the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand, particularly during windy days when the trees would move.

The team also plans to copy something that the Mariners did at Safeco Field in Seattle and install a new "almost honeycomb-like" material on the backdrop, St. Peter said. That will help to reduce the glare for hitters off the batter's eye, which was a problem during late-afternoon games.

"It's more of a safety issue for players," Twins general manager Bill Smith said of the changes being made. "That is one of those things that you really don't know until you get into a park and start playing. You can project what the glare will be but you don't know until you start playing. We certainly want to make it safe for the players."

The changes that the Twins are planning to make were applauded by the club's hitters, including Joe Mauer.

"First year in the stadium, it was pretty bad," Mauer said of the batter's eye. "It was one of the worst backdrops that we've seen, and it's nice to see them address it.

"I think we're getting the same background as Seattle, which is pretty nice. People ask me, 'What's the one thing you miss about the Metrodome?' And that's it, every at-bat was the same, same sight-lines and all that. That's about the only thing I miss about the Metrodome."

St. Peter said that the team is still working on determining what to do with the 14 trees that will be removed. He mentioned it's possible that they could be relocated to different parts of the stadium.

Delaney claimed off waivers by Rays

MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Rob Delaney, who was designated for assignment this week when the Twins picked up left-hander Dusty Hughes, has been claimed off waivers by the Rays.

Delaney made one appearance for Minnesota last season, giving up one run on two hits in one inning. He was 7-9 with a 4.73 ERA in 61 appearances with Triple-A Rochester in 2010.

Twins tidbits

Single-game tickets for the 2011 season will go on sale March 19. The Twins have already renewed 95 percent of their season-ticket base, and Twins president Dave St. Peter said the club expects to draw more than 3 million fans to Target Field again this season. ... The Twins have moved the first pitch of their July 24 game against the Tigers to 3:10 p.m. CT. This will allow fans to be in the ballpark to watch Bert Blyleven's induction speech on the scoreboard when he's officially ushered into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. ... The Twins are working on plans to have the University of Minnesota baseball team play their Big Ten schedule at Target Field. The Gophers were scheduled to play their games at the Metrodome prior to the roof's collapse in December.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Kelly's Corner and follow her on Twitter at kellythesier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.