5/4/2014 2:45 P.M. ET
'Fresher' Mauer heating up after slow first month
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't a typical first month of the season for Joe Mauer, who had just four extra-base hits in April.
Mauer, who made the switch from catching to first base this season, hit .276/.388/.337 with just six RBIs in 24 games in April. But Mauer has been heating up recently, as he entered Sunday's game against the Orioles hitting .406 with six RBIs over his previous eight games, including a three-run homer and four RBIs in Saturday's 6-1 win.
"Historically, I probably do start out a little slow," Mauer said. "For whatever it's worth, I started out slow this year. But [Saturday] I was feeling pretty good, and the last couple games. So hopefully I can hold onto that feeling."
Mauer has also struck out more often than usual, as he's been set down in 22.4 percent of his plate appearances, which is nearly double his career rate of 11.4 percent. But Mauer said he's not worried about that either, and he doesn't believe he's being pitched any differently this season.
"It kind of goes in stretches," Mauer said. "It was just the first month, and we have a long way to go. So I'll just try to put together good at-bats and go from there."
Mauer added he can already tell a difference in his legs, as he feels fresher this season and doesn't have to worry about the rigors that come with being a catcher. He's also started every game for the Twins this season as a result, which was one of his main goals coming into the year.
"I've noticed early on that I'm running a lot better," Mauer said. "I feel pretty good. I've been out there every day, and with catching you can't really do that. So it feels pretty good to be in the lineup every day."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also said he's noticed a difference in Mauer, and he believes he'll be a better first baseman in time. Mauer has yet to make an error this season, but Gardenhire said he still has plenty to learn at first base. Gardenhire said Mauer also is adjusting to the fact that he used to track pitches while catching to get him ready for his at-bats.
"I think he'll be a fresher person at the end of the year, no doubt, and I think he already is," Gardenhire said. "He's a fresher guy now and you can already see it. Now it's just working on his swing and where he needs to be and make adjustments from not being behind the plate. It doesn't happen overnight. We're still only a month into the season."
With no primary shortstop, Gardenhire plays matchups
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he doesn't have a primary shortstop, as he'll continue to mix and match Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar while also trying to find a chance to start rookie Danny Santana, who was officially called up from Triple-A Rochester on Saturday.
Florimon is the best defensively of the three, but he entered Sunday's game hitting just .121 with a double and a triple in 22 games. But he got the start for the second day in a row on Sunday after Escobar started at shortstop on Friday. Escobar started at third base instead on Sunday, with Trevor Plouffe serving as designated hitter.
"Whoever is out there that day is my shortstop," Gardenhire said. "I have confidence in anybody I put out there."
Florimon picked up a single in Saturday's 6-1 win for his seventh hit of the year and his first since April 19. Gardenhire said he wants to keep giving Florimon chances because of his glove at shortstop. Florimon continues to rank among the game's best defensively at shortstop, according to advanced metrics such as Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating.
"He's been fighting it a little bit [offensively]," Gardenhire said. "You watch him with that glove and the way he makes it easy out there, and that's why you love him so much. But Esco has been swinging good, and Santana is ready to rock and roll. I can promise you that."
Twins activate top prospect Buxton from DL
MINNEAPOLIS -- Top prospect Byron Buxton, who sprained his left wrist in a Minor League Spring Training game on March 16, was officially activated from the 7-day disabled list at Class A Advanced Fort Myers on Sunday.
Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, had been playing in extended spring training games since April 26. He's expected to play at Fort Myers until he's deemed ready to move up to Double-A New Britain.
"He joined the Miracle today because he passed everything he needed to do in extended," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "Now we'll get him in over there with the Miracle and get him going. If he gets rolling and it looks like he's in midseason form and ready to go, we'll move him up to New Britain where we planned to have him be. He played his way out of this league last year, but we'll give him enough time here to get going."
Buxton, 20, dominated the Florida State League last year, hitting .326/.415/.472 with four homers, four doubles, eight triples and 23 stolen bases in 57 games with Fort Myers.
Buxton injured his wrist while trying to make a diving catch in center field in Fort Myers.