Despite showing some signs of improvement in recent days, back spasms continue to plague Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer. The team’s franchise player missed his fourth straight game on Thursday and could be heading to the disabled list, according to a report by the Associated Press. The team has yet to make a decision regarding his status, but playing short handed may end up forcing them to make a move.
Mauer’s hit well well on the season to date, coming in at a .296/.393/.374 clip through his first 135 plate appearances. His power has diminished greatly in the early going, however, as he’s totaled just five extra base hits on the year (2 HR, 3 2B). Having long established himself as a key piece of the team’s lineup, Minnesota elected to move him from behind the plate to first base permanently with the hope that it would help keep him healthy long term. It’s unclear when, or why, the spasms in his lower back first cropped up but they are beginning to cause some reason for concern despite some limited signs of improvement.
Minnesota’s short bench became further compounded this past week with Mauer out of the lineup. Outfielder Sam Fuld is out for the next seven days with a concussion, leaving the team short an outfielder. Chris Colabello has been covering first base with Mauer out, meaning the team has been forced to use a variety of options in the outfield to compensate. This included shortstop Eduardo Escobar, who made his first start in left field on Wednesday and then ended up playing center field on Thursday. Chris Hermann and Pedro Florimon (both primarily infielders) were both optioned to Triple-A following Thursday’s game, but the team has yet to announce what their corresponding moves may be and don’t plan to do so until Friday.
Aaron Hicks, the team’s starting center fielder on Opening Day, could be one option. He’s been sidelined with a concussion of his own and while he’s reportedly not feeling any lingering effects, he’s yet to return to baseball activities and could benefit from a brief rehab assignment before rejoining the team. Oswaldo Arcia, who’s been rehabbing a wrist injury, could also be an option.
Losing Mauer for any stretch of time is naturally not ideal for the Twins. The team already sits at the bottom of the AL Central, 6.5 games behind the red hot Detroit Tigers, and missing the biggest piece of their lineup will hinder their chances at gaining any ground in that chase. Colabello – who’s batting .270/.313/.444 – gives the team a reasonable replacement at first, despite his occasional defensive miscue but it’s unclear who the team will install in the lineup to fill the void in the outfield.