ANAHEIM -- Joe Mauer isn't accustomed to going to All-Star Games by himself.
The Twins' catcher has been accompanied at the Midsummer Classic by teammates Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan in each of the past two seasons. But with Morneau pulling out of his fourth consecutive All-Star Game on Saturday due to lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered last week, and Nathan out for the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, Mauer will be the Twins' lone representative at Angel Stadium this week."It's a great honor and it's a fun event," Mauer said. "I'm happy to go out there and represent the team. Wish I could bring my buddy [Morneau] along with me, but he needs to get some rest, too." Mauer himself is a bit banged up, fighting a sore shoulder that kept him out of the lineup for Minnesota's first-half finale. He's also battled a bone bruise on his left heel that kept him out of seven games in early May, among other ailments. He even considered joining Morneau on the sidelines, but Mauer was the top vote-getter among fans picking the All-Star starters. He couldn't let them down. "I went back and forth a little bit, but it's a great honor to be the top vote-getter," said Mauer, set to start for the third straight year. "I keep saying that as long as they have me here, I'll keep coming." He planned to chat with American League manager Joe Girardi about his workload, and noted that the AL's other All-Star catcher, John Buck, was a first-timer who "probably wants to get out there and play." Mauer doesn't like to discuss the injuries or use them as an excuse, but they've likely factored into it being a rather average season at the plate for the three-time AL batting champion. Coming off a season in which he hit .365 with a career-high 28 home runs and 96 RBIs despite missing the first month of the campaign due to a back injury, Mauer is batting .293 with four home runs and 35 RBIs this season. He was the leading vote-getter of all Major League players for the first time in his career, so it's clear that his down offensive year hasn't hurt his popularity with the fans. He met some of his youngest fans early Monday morning. The cover boy of "MLB '10: The Show" on Playstation 3 was at the Playstation Patrol Truck at 8 a.m. PT, getting the day's FanFest off to a quick start.
"That was pretty cool," Mauer said. "They had a 3D TV set up, and it was pretty amazing. Nice way to start the day."Twins manager Ron Gardenhire credited Mauer for still being able to put up solid offensive numbers despite the many little injuries that have nagged him this season. "He's hitting [just] under .300, which would be great for anybody else," Gardenhire said. "He's just set the standard so high. "That being said, sure injuries have played a little bit a part of it. He's been fighting a lot of little nagging things this year and playing through it. That's what All-Star players do. Some years, you have it where your body just takes a bit more of a beating than others, but you get through them and that's what he's done to his credit." Mauer needed some coaxing to call his season, so far, "frustrating." But he did use that word. "It hasn't been that bad, because I'm obviously here," he said, motioning around a hotel ballroom filled with the AL All-Stars. "I plan to do a lot better [in the second half]. It's been a season of ups and down, and I have enough time to turn it around." Mauer was 1-for-3 with a run scored in last year's All-Star Game in St. Louis. The year before that, Mauer went 1-for-1 with a walk in his start at the Midsummer Classic at Yankee Stadium. In '06, his first All-Star Game and the only time he played as a reserve, he went 0-for-2.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.