'Fresher' Mauer heating up after slow first month

'Fresher' Mauer heating up after slow first month

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."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.