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Mauer, with glittering numbers, plans to play every day

Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) reacts after striking out in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium earlier this week. Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — Joe Mauer plans to go the distance.

"Nine games left," Mauer said before making his 15th consecutive start Friday night. "There's probably a lot of people in here not feeling too good. You go out there and give it your best."

The 34-year-old first baseman, hitting .404 over his past 40 games since Aug. 10, was set to surpass last year's season total of 134 games on Friday. If he plays all remaining games, it will be his second-highest regular-season total since the end of 2012.

"We talked about it," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I asked him about playing the rest of the games and what could we do to ensure he felt good enough to do that and maybe he could DH a couple days. He said he's doing fine, doing what he has to do to get ready every day."

That is supported by Mauer's glittering numbers over his past 170 plate appearances: .447 on-base percentage, .551 slugging percentage and a fortune-aided .459 batting average on balls in play. Considering Mauer is striking out just 12.9 percent of the time in this stretch, that partly explains how he's been able to climb within 19 hits of 2,000 for his career.

"I feel good, feel like I'm having consistent at-bats," Mauer said after his 11th game of three or more hits since Aug. 10. "Sometimes throughout the season you get in funks where you try to do a little bit more than what the pitch presents or what the situation calls for, but I think I've done a good job of just having good at-bats and taking what they're giving me."

Since Aug. 10, only Avisail Garcia of the Chicago White Sox has a higher batting average (.412) than Mauer, who ranks sixth among big-league regulars in OBP.

The "less is more" approach seems to be paying dividends with Mauer at this stage of his career.

"I think it's been good," Mauer said. "Even though maybe at some points earlier in the year I might have wanted to get out there, I understand it and I think it's paying off. I'm playing pretty well lately. Looking at the bigger picture, I think it's helped. Nine (games) left and hopefully more. We're going to try to be ready."

OPTIONS FOR COLON

After watching Bartolo Colon post a 13.09 earned-run average over his past three starts, the Twins are considering their options for the final regular-season trip through the starting rotation.

Colon, at 44 the oldest player in the majors, could be pushed back from Tuesday's series opener at Cleveland. A decision would need to be made by Saturday in order to give rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia (1.86 ERA in two starts against the Indians) a chance to recover from a between-starts bullpen in time to start on normal rest.

If that happens, young right-hander Jose Berrios also could receive an extra day of rest between starts with Kyle Gibson and Ervin Santana also facing the Indians on their usual fifth day. Santana, the Twins' top starter, remains lined up to start a potential wild-card game on Oct. 3.

The final weekend at home against the Tigers could see the Twins start Colon, Berrios and Mejia, the latter of whom is 4-6 with a 4.48 ERA in 20 starts. Efficiency has been a problem for Mejia, who missed nearly six weeks with upper-arm soreness and hasn't pitched into the sixth in the majors since July 17.

AGUIAR SIGNS

It took a few extra weeks and probably a few extra bucks, but the Twins agreed to terms this week with Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Aguiar on a $1 million signing bonus, according to a person with direct knowledge.

Listed at 6 feet 3 and 190 pounds, Aguiar is considered a "toolsy outfielder with an athletic frame, strong arm and lots of raw power," according to the Dominican Prospect League web site. Aguiar, who turned 16 on Aug. 28, joins a 2017-18 Twins international amateur class headed by Dominican shortstop Jelfry Marte, who signed for $3 million at the July 2 opening of the signing period.

The Twins, who increased their international bonus pool to $5.75 million after acquiring $500,000 from the Washington Nationals in the Brandon Kintzler trade, had to ward off several late suitors for Aguiar, who bats and throws left.

Dominican outfielder Mauro Bonifacio (6-5, 205 pounds) was another key Twins target, but he is expected to sign elsewhere after garnering additional interest as the summer progressed.

BRIEFLY

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus will not have his contract renewed after four seasons. He took a 42-28 managerial record against the Twins into Friday night's game. "I've known Brad for a long time as a player," Molitor said. "I just have a lot of respect for him. ... I know he's going to be able to land on his feet." ... Indians ace Corey Kluber, who has gone 8-1 against the American League Central this season, is due to miss the Twins for the fifth time in six series. Scheduled to start Sunday, Kluber struck out 13 Twins in seven innings on June 24 in a no-decision at Progressive Field. The Twins have managed to go 10-9 in Kluber's starts.

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