If there's one thing Twins-related on everyone's minds right now, I am sure the majority would say that they're concerned about Joe Mauer. In case you've been 'out of the loop' this week, Mauer has had discomfort in his back this Spring and underwent a "Magnetic Resonance Arthrogram," which helped identify that Mauer has "an inflamed sacroiliac joint" in his back.
The sacroiliac joint is the connection between a person's pelvis and sacrum (base of the spine). According to Twins General Manager Bill Smith, a similar pain is the result in a previous MRI for Mauer which resulted in the 25-year-old catcher undergoing surgery tor remove a kidney obstruction.
The Twins believed that the discomfort was stemmed from the kidney surgery, but during the later procedure in which they injected a dye into his lower back which showed the inflammation. The Twins believe that a change in medications is the best cure for Mauer and what will help him get back on the field sooner rather than later.
Twins fans are used to over-analyzing injuries associated to Mauer. But rightfully so. Without Mauer, the Twins go from being strong contenders to likely finishing 3rd or 4th in the division. So it's pretty easy to become very concerned, very quicly with any injury Mauer endurs.
The Twins will take it slow with Mauer for the time being and they will give him all the time he needs to get back to 100%. The Twins are hoping that Mauer will be ready for Opening Day, but if not, the Twins do have a few options that they could do.
Mike Redmond has the Twins backup since 2005 and has been a good one at that. He's going to be 38-years-old this season and probably can't handle catching on a daily basis. Which is why Jose Morales could be a player more Twins fans become familar with very shortly.
If you can remember, back in September of 2007 the Twins called-up Morales to relieve Redmond and Mauer who were both carrying battle wounds and ended up going 3-3 with a double before leaving the game with a season-ending ankle injury. His time with the Twins was short-lived, but he made a great impression and is a player the Twins could call upon to handle a bulk of the catching duties if Mauer should miss any time to start the season.
Morales has hit .312 with 41 extra-base hits in 162 Triple-A games since 2007. In 2008 the same ankle that he injured in 2007 forced him to miss nearly half of the season, but if he can maintain his health he could be a good short-term catcher that the Twins could count on if Redmond is not ready to go.
Right now, unless Mauer's health improves drastically, I expect Morales to make the Twins 25-man roster out of Spring to give the Twins a needed 3rd catcher insurance policy until Mauer can prove he is 100%.
There has been 'talk' on the web of Wilson Ramos making the roster and although I think that would be a cool thing to see, I think it's very doubtful that a 21-year-old with no experience over Advanced-A Ball will make the roster. If anything, his performance this Spring could give the Twins a reason to promote him more aggressively if he excels in Double-A. But even then, the Twins really have no need to rush Ramos just for the sake of rushing. If he is ready, fine. But if they feel he'd benefit more from staying in Double-A, that's fine too.
Right now, we just don't know what to expect and it's just good to know that the Twins have a couple serviceable options that they can turn to if Mauer isn't quite ready come Opening Day.
On a positive note, at least Mauer was healthy enough to accompany Joe Nathan in the Twins new commercial. Make sure to check it out!