Mauer's third straight Gold Glove 'means a lot'
Twins catcher led American League with .996 fielding percentage
Joe Mauer stands as the only catcher in Major League Baseball history to win three batting titles.
But those accomplishments with the bat certainly won't block out Mauer's honors earned with the glove, after the Twins' franchise backstop won his third consecutive Gold Glove Award on Tuesday.
"For me, it means a lot," said Mauer during a Wednesday afternoon conference call. "Going back to when I was first drafted, everyone knew I could hit a bit, so I worked really hard on the defensive side. It's nice to be recognized for that."
Mauer committed just three errors in 733 chances for a .996 fielding percentage, while nailing 26 percent of would-be basestealers. This award marks the 10th straight year the Twins have won at least one Gold Glove as a team and marks the 41st Gold Glove in franchise history.
Jim Kaat leads all Twins with 11 career Gold Gloves, followed by Torii Hunter (seven), Kirby Puckett (six), Gary Gaetti (four) and Mauer as the only organization members with three or more Gold Glove wins. This win marks the fifth time a Twins catcher has won a Gold Glove, with Mauer joining Earl Battey (1961-62).
This Gold Glove becomes the first won by Mauer while playing home games outdoors. And on Wednesday, Mauer admitted there was an adjustment period in learning Target Field.
"It was a year of trying to figure things out, with the wind and the way the ball would carry," said Mauer of the Twins' spectacular new ballpark. "Not just defensively, but offensively, too.
"Actually, it surprised me a little bit. It was kind of weird playing outside, and conditions will affect you positively or negatively. You look at it throughout the whole year, and obviously it was a better place for pitchers. But we won a lot of ballgames there, and the team winning is the bottom line."
Talk on Wednesday did turn briefly to Mauer's health. Mauer was bothered by what was described as inflammation in his left knee over the final three weeks of the 2010 season, an injury not requiring offseason surgery, along with a sore right shoulder and a deep bone bruise on his left heel.
Although Mauer sort of laughed at the third question asked about his health, pointing out how the call was about the Gold Glove recognition, he addressed his recovery.
"Well, I'm healing after a long year. It's been good," said Mauer, who has spent some time in Florida during the offseason. "It's pretty slow, but it's early in the offseason.
"I've started to move around a little bit, but I'm letting my body try to heal. I'm just trying to get to where I want to be. I'm not doing anything too extensive right now.
"It was a tough year for me physically," Mauer said. "I had some injuries I had to deal with early in the season, and every baseball player knows when you have something early in the season, you have to deal with it the whole year. It was a long year for me physically, but I'm happy to get through it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.