Joe Mauer is no longer going to play catcher for the Minnesota Twins.
Instead, he’s moving over to first base.
This was confirmed by no less than Rhett Bolinger of the Twins’ official website, who says the change stems from Mauer suffering from a concussion in a game against the New York Mets on Aug. 19 which caused him to miss the rest of the 2013 MLB season.
Mauer, who hasn’t had any symptoms of the concussion since late October, consulted with physicians from both the Twins and the Mayo Clinic. He earlier said he’d remain a catcher, but after talking to his doctors, he made the hard decision last week to no longer be a catcher — a position he’s known for his entire career.
“This was one of the tougher decisions I’ve had to make but also probably one of the easiest. It was a tough decision because I love catching and it’s something I’ve worked hard at my whole life to become the best catcher I could be. So I’m a little disappointed my catching career had to end like this.
“As far as it being an easy thing, given the magnitude of the decision, I took my time just to make sure I was making the right decision for myself, my family, my career, my teammates and the organization. So I look forward to the challenge and getting back on the field.”
Mauer also told Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he “really tried to do everything I could to get back out on the field. But it wasn’t safe and I wasn’t able to do that.”
Twins general manager Terry Ryan emphasized it was Mauer who made the decision himself and that the team will support it.
“I’m happy he has chosen to make the transition, but if he decided he wanted to catch, I’m not sure anybody was going to stand in his way. We had a conversation in October, just about the future. One thing was apparent, (after) Joe was on the (disabled list) for quite some time, the important thing was his health, and it led from there.
“Joe did some searching, talked to some people he had a lot of confidence in, and ultimately he got back to me and said he was willing to make the move. I think it’s the right decision.”
Miller also stressed Mauer’s transition to first base will be made easier by the fact that the team has a vacancy at the position which was created by Justin Morneau’s trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 31.
Morneau, who’s had concussion issues of his own, is a free agent. However, with Mauer’s move to first base, a reunion is unlikely at this point.
Nonetheless the two friends and former roommates spoke on Monday in the aftermath of Mauer’s decision. Morneau agreed with it, per Mauer.
“He told me, ‘That’s a smart move,’ and he wishes me the best. I think he realizes the things I’m going through. It’s just one of those things.”
Mauer was selected by his hometown Twins with the first pick in the 2001 MLB Draft. Since then, he has won several accolades which include three Gold Gloves, three batting titles, six All-Star Game appearances and the 2009 American League MVP award.
In addition, he won the Silver Slugger award for American League catchers in 2013. He batted .324 to go along with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs last season.
Mauer is owed $115 million by the Twins through 2018.