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Notes: Mauer a possibility for ALCS
10/07/2004 3:30 PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins catcher Joe Mauer departed for Florida on Thursday with hopes that he can still help his team during the postseason.

Mauer visited with the team's doctor and was fitted with a new brace for his surgically repaired left knee. He was also given clearance to play in an Instructional League game on Friday at the organization's complex in Fort Myers.

Although no games were planned in Florida over the weekend, the team will still have the 21-year-old sharpen his timing at the plate.

"We're going to set up live game situations for him where he can get at-bats," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

For Mauer to be added to the active postseason roster, Minnesota must advance past the Yankees to the American League Championship Series.

"If he does what we probably think he's going to do, rip the stuff out of the ball like he always does when he's hitting," Gardenhire said, "we'll see what happens if we get through this round and get to the second round."

Mauer would likely replace injured second baseman Luis Rivas, who is sore from bone chips in his right elbow.

Out of action because of recurring knee soreness since July 15, Mauer has stepped up running and sliding drills while preparing for a possible return. If activated, he would not catch in games and instead be limited to pinch-hitting or designated hitter duties.

Mauer's rookie season has been limited to 35 games because of torn knee cartilage suffered April 6. He returned for six weeks before going back on the disabled list after the All-Star break.

Still, coaches were amazed how well the former 2001 No. 1 draft pick continued to swing the bat during batting practice sessions. The team thinks its bench would be stronger with Mauer on it.

"He's not a bad guy to have around," Gardenhire said.

Mauer batted .308 with six homers and 17 RBIs in the regular season.

No workout: Because the Twins' charter flight home didn't arrive in Minneapolis until 4 a.m. CT, Thursday morning's scheduled off-day workout at the Metrodome was scrapped. Bench coach Steve Liddle informed the players as they arrived to the ballpark.

"When you get in at four or five in the morning, you don't need batting practice," Gardenhire said.

Instead of hitting, players mingled in the Twins clubhouse and were made available to the media. Getting a break was welcomed.

"Today it was a good day off," infielder Michael Cuddyer said. "Got in late last night, got some rest and, hopefully, come in here tomorrow ready to play."

Santana update: Not everyone avoided baseball activities Thursday. Left-hander -- and probable Game 4 starter -- Johan Santana threw in a light bullpen session. The club remained confident Santana can return on three days' rest Saturday.

"He says he feels great," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "His 'pen was great."

On the money? Several reporters asked center fielder Torii Hunter how much Yankees playoff mystique played a part in Wednesday's emotional 12-inning loss. Hunter wasn't buying it.

"These guys can hit, man," said Hunter, who is 4-for-10 in the ALDS. "Alex Rodriguez can hit. Derek Jeter can hit. Gary Sheffield can hit. Godzilla (Hideki Matsui) can hit. Mariano Rivera can close. The mystique is money."

Game 3 plans: After not playing him in Game 2, the Twins plan to start Lew Ford as the DH in Game 3. With sinkerball pitcher Carlos Silva on the mound Friday, Gardenhire indicated utility man Augie Ojeda might start at second base for Rivas. Although Cuddyer is 4-for-8 in the series playing second base, Ojeda is stronger defensively.

Quotable: "I think this team has been through quite a bit. We've always been told we can't do this and can't do that, or we shouldn't be here. Believe me, that's enough incentive for this baseball team. Now they're going to say we're done. We know that. I guarantee that this team is going to come out fighting. We'll come out attacking like we always do." -- Gardenhire, when asked how his team might respond after losing Wednesday

Say, it ain't Joe: When catcher/designated hitter Matthew LeCroy wasn't getting much media attention while sitting in front of his locker, he came up with a novel idea.

LeCroy reached into his locker for a bat and donned one of Mauer's No. 7 jerseys. Then he mocked the rookie's left-handed swing and drew laughs from the room.

"Anyone want to talk to Joe?" LeCroy joked with a big smile.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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