MOOSIC — Joe Mauer had never been to Scranton. Until Tuesday.
As the Minnesota Twins first baseman battles back from a cervical strain and concussion-like symptoms, which landed him on the 10-day disabled list on May 18, he was in the lineup for the Rochester Red Wings for Tuesday night’s doubleheader against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Mauer played both games of the doubleheader and is set to play first base in Wednesday’s series finale. He went 0-for-6 with a strikeout in a pair of Rochester losses, 5-2 and 2-0, respectively.
“I’m glad that I’m getting to this point and getting on the field. Just excited to get back on a baseball,” Mauer said. “I’m excited. I’m happy at this point and ready to get on to baseball.”
For Mauer, his rehab stint with the Red Wings is simple.
The 2009 American League MVP is just glad be back, “going through a regular day” and “going through the motions.” He’s using this time to do “everything I need to do” to get back to the bigs and help out the third-place Twins as soon as possible.
The fact that he was able to take advantage of Tuesday’s doubleheader, and get some extra at-bats, was a big plus.
“I think the biggest thing for me is to get out there and play nine innings in the field and feel good in doing that,” Mauer said. “It’s a combination of things, but it was mostly the symptoms — concussion symptoms — (that were hardest) to get over. This is the next step in that recovery, but I’m here and ready to go out to go on a baseball field and I’m excited about that.”
While Mauer admitted this concussion hasn’t been as difficult to come back from as the one he suffered at the end of the 2013 season, he still had to overcome a setback. The 35-year-old was close to returning at the beginning of the month when his concussion symptoms returned during on-field work on May 31.
In hindsight, Mauer said he probably wouldn’t have even dove for the foul ball during the game against the Angels if he had the opportunity to do it over again.
“It’s tough. It’s frustrating because concussions are all different and people respond to them differently,” Mauer said. “It’s one of the more frustrating injuries because you don’t have a timetable. I think that’s what’s frustrating for the player because, you know, a hamstring or ankle, you kind of have a good idea when you’re back but with a concussion, you really just have to let it calm down and the better you can do that, the sooner you’ll be back.”
Justus Sheffield was originally scheduled to take the mound Wednesday for the RailRiders. But after Sunday’s rainout, he was pushed back a day and will now pitch on Thursday.
That means the 22-year-old will miss his opportunity to face Mauer. An opportunity the southpaw was looking forward to.
“I was actually a little upset,” Sheffield said of his start getting pushed back. “That guy, he’s one of the best players in the game for a long time — he has been. Any time you get the opportunity to face a guy like that — when I played Pawtucket I got to face (Dustin) Pedroia — that’s just something you look forward to just because you’ll never know if you face those guys again.
“It’s also one of those things that you get to see, ‘OK, let’s see how good I really am. Let’s see what I do against these guys.’ You can see it too. Some guys will get up there and try to blow them back and out-pitch a guy, try and out-smart those guys. It’s fun. It’s awesome.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle