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Twins' Joe Mauer poised to join rare Gold Glove company

Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) fields and throws to for the out during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Target Field on May 29. (Marilyn Indahl / USA TODAY Sports)

DETROIT — Since Rawlings started awarding Gold Gloves in 1957, only two players have won one at two different positions. Does Joe Mauer have a shot at joining that elite club?

"I would like to think people who vote on those things are paying attention," Twins manager Paul Molitor said Sunday.

Mauer's over-the-shoulder catch of a sixth-inning popup from Chris McCann in a 12-11 loss to the Tigers was one of ESPN's plays of the day on Saturday night, but he is routinely making difficult plays in his fourth season since moving from catcher to first base full time.

His ultimate zone rating of 5.2 is tops in the American League among first basemen with 85 starts, and his defensive runs saved above average (6) is tied for first with Boston's Mitch Moreland. His dropped popup Aug. 4 against Texas was his first error in more than a year.

"There are some really good defensive first basemen," Molitor said, "but I can't imagine anyone has outplayed Joe at his position this year."

Mauer won three Gold Gloves as a catcher (2008-10) before moving to the infield full time after a battle with concussion symptoms. North Dakota's Darin Erstad won Gold Gloves as an outfielder (2000, 2002) and first baseman (2004) with the Anaheim Angels, and Placido Polanco won a Gold Gloves at second base (2007, 2009) and an NL nod at third base (2011).

"The way he's played over there, the scoops have been, I don't know what the number is, but he's saved us a lot," Molitor said. "He's shown great range. Last night, going as far as he did to make that catch, juggling it but still catching it.

"I don't know if you can compare it to what Buxton does in center field, but there's kind of a safety net over there at first base."

Former pitcher Jim Kaat won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves, 12 of them with the Twins from 1962-73.

Sunday rules

As has been customary this season, Mauer was given the day off Sunday — a day game after a night game — but it wasn't an easy decision, Molitor said.

"It was very tempting to play Joe out there today, for a lot of reasons," he said.

One was defense, the other was the fact that Mauer, 33, homered and drove in five runs on Saturday, and in his past three games was 8 for 15 (.533) with eight RBIs.

Miguel Sano started at first Sunday.

"You have to step back from being too absorbed in the moment of today," Molitor said. "We need to win, as many games as we can, but I know I have a significant amount of games remaining to play. What we've done with Joe, I think, has contributed to him having a really good year, and we're not at a point where I want to alter that too much.

"Two days for Joe is very helpful at this stage of the season."

Rotation set

Molitor set his rotation for a crucial series against the Cleveland starting Tuesday at Target Field. Bartolo Colon will start the opener, followed by Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios.

The Twins started Sunday second in the AL Central, 4 1/2 games behind the Indians after falling seven back in the wake of a 2-6 West Coast road trip July 24-Aug. 2.

"We've narrowed the gap on them some," Molitor said. "We'd like to think (a division title) is still in the balance. You just don't want to go into any stretches where you allow things to change too dramatically in a short time. We were able to recover from the last little hiccup and get back in the mix; it's just going to be hard to repeat that. So we're just looking to win."

Dietrich Enns was available for long relief on Sunday and is likely to start Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.


Third base coach Gene Glynn returned to the field after attending the funeral of his friend and former coaching colleague Don Baylor in Austin, Texas.