Twins' Mauer still set for May 1 return

4/24/2009 - MLB Joe Mauer Minnesota Twins + more

CLEVELAND -- Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, sidelined by a balky lower back, began a rehabilitation assignment Friday night at Class A Fort Myers and remained on schedule to return to the Twins on May 1.

Mauer, who hasn't played for the Twins this season, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs while working seven innings behind the plate. He is scheduled to catch seven innings again Saturday before serving as the designated hitter Sunday. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is hoping Mauer can catch a full nine innings Monday.

Mauer was initially scheduled to DH on Friday night, but persuaded team officials to let him catch. That's as fast as Gardenhire will move. Mauer looked good during a stint this week in extended spring training, but Gardenire won't rush his return before May.

"He didn't do anything all winter and he didn't do anything all spring," Gardenhire said. "He's caught 12 innings of baseball and everyone wants to move the schedule up. If I close my eyes and listen to this, I'm thinking, 'Superman, that's who we're talking about.' "

The key, Gardenhire said, will be to see how Mauer responds after catching on consecutive nights.

"I'm as anxious as anybody to get Joe Mauer back up here," Gardenhire said. "We just have to make sure he can catch before I do that. I can't use our major league season as a spring training. I can't start him and let him catch seven innings and take him out. Not up here, that doesn't work."

Aside from his potent bat, Mauer's absence behind the plate has been glaring. Twins catchers entered Friday night's game at Cleveland having yet to throw out an attempted base stealer this year -- opponents are 17-for-17 against them. Twins pitchers have also picked off four runners. Mauer threw out 36 percent of attempted base stealers last season.