09/30/12 2:12 PM ET
Baker's goal is return to full health for Spring Training
By Rhett Bollinger and Jordan Garretson / MLB.com
Baker, who underwent the season-ending operation on April 17, said he's throwing from 120 feet and hopes to progress to 150 feet soon. The right-hander added that once he gets to 180 feet, he'll likely shut it down for about a month before progressing to the mound.
Baker said the ultimate goal is to head into Spring Training fully healthy, but it's too early to guarantee that will be the case.
"That's the plan as of right now," Baker said. "That's the best-case scenario for sure. I think to use the Spring Training starts as the progression as the rehab starts, it couldn't have been a better Spring Training for that to happen. We have a couple extra weeks of Spring Training. So I'm not going to sit here and promise anybody it's going to work out that way, but that's what I'm shooting for. I definitely think that's an attainable goal of mine."
Baker is likely to be a free agent -- the Twins hold a $9.25 million option for next season they are almost certain to decline -- but said he hasn't ruled out re-signing with Minnesota.
"I'd like to be back," Baker said. "I know there's other great organizations out there, but this is all I know. I've been here and I've enjoyed my time here, my family likes it here. There haven't been any talks yet, but I've let them know that I'm definitely open to hearing what they have to say. Whether they choose to pick up the option or not, that's up to them. It's something that I'd definitely be interested in at least listening to what they have to say, for sure."
Mauer not aware of potential move to third base
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins hosted a conference call with season-ticket holders on Thursday, manager Ron Gardenhire was asked by a fan about the chances of Joe Mauer playing some third base next season.
Gardenhire replied that he had thought about that being a possibility but confirmed on Sunday that he hasn't talked to Mauer about playing third base.
Mauer, who has made 30 starts at first base this season but has no professional experience at the hot corner, said the possibility of playing third was news to him.
"That's the first I've heard of it today," Mauer said. "I haven't even wrapped my head around it, so if that is the case, hopefully I have some time to prepare for it. But I think, and I've said this all along, I think we're a better team when I'm behind the plate. I think I've shown I've been able to do that this year, and also go over to first. So, we'll start thinking about that. I'm just trying to finish this year strong."
Mauer, 29, has a chance to set a career high in games played if he plays in every game in Minnesota's three-game series in Toronto. He started behind the plate against the Tigers on Sunday to mark his 144th game this season. His career high is 146 games in 2008.
But Mauer has spent just a little more than half of the time behind the plate, as he's made 74 starts at catcher and a combined 69 starts at first base and designated hitter. So Mauer said he wants to make it a goal to catch even more next season.
"I definitely don't rule that out," Mauer said. "I think this year, going over to first was more out of necessity than how it's going to be from here on out. I'm 29 years old, and I still have a lot more games behind the plate. So we'll see what they want to do, but I believe I can go out there and be an everyday catcher."
Gardenhire gives vote of confidence to staff
MINNEAPOLIS -- Manager Ron Gardenhire knows some of the Twins' coaches may not be back on his staff next season.
With Minnesota wrapping up its second-straight 90-plus-loss season, the organization could be looking to make some changes in the offseason. Some of those changes could occur with the field staff, as each coach's contract -- except for Gardenhire -- is set to expire after the end of the season, according to a 1500ESPN.com report.
But the 11th-year Twins skipper is confident his staff is part of the solution, not the problem.
"I'm been surrounded by a staff that, they're my friends but they're workers," Gardenhire said. "I think you see that. They're out there every day getting it done ... So there's a comfort zone."
Among the Twins' tenured coaching staff are pitching coach Rick Anderson and third-base coach Steve Liddle, who were both hired for Gardenhire's first season as manager in 2002. Joe Vavra has been the club's hitting coach since the 2006 season, while Jerry White has been coaching first base since 1999. Bench coach Scott Ullger has been on staff since the 1995 season, and 2012 is the 32nd season for bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek.
Gardenhire is also aware that the personnel decisions won't be up to him.
"I have all the faith that they can do the job, but some of these things aren't going to be left up to me, it's going to be left to ownership and [general manager] Terry [Ryan]," Gardenhire said. "If he thinks change is needed, he's going to talk to the owners and we'll go from there. We'll see how everything pans out at the end here, but I have the utmost respect for my staff."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.