Two games into a four-game series against the Yankees, Joe Mauer said he's still adjusting to the defensive shifts teams are employing against him.
The Twins catcher said a ball he hit up the middle in Monday's game would have been a hit if New York shortstop Derek Jeter hadn't been playing the shift at the time. In the Twins' opening series in Toronto, the Blue Jays used a shift that featured the third baseman playing on the right field side of second base.
If something that dramatic happens again, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Mauer has the ability to change it.
Mauer once led off an inning in Toronto, and even then the Blue Jays used the shift. In that case, Gardenhire said, Mauer, a skilled bunter, should have bunted toward third base for a hit. Instead, Mauer flied out to center field.
"We were talking about that in Toronto. If they're going to play him like that, especially leading off an inning, there'd be no reason not to (bunt)," Gardenhire said. "I think he got a little gun shy. He took a lot of heat over dropping a bunt down, but that's part of his game, too. He's going to have to do those things."
Gardenhire was referring to a play last season, when, with the game tied 3-3 and runners on first and second with one out, Mauer, the 2009 American League MVP, dropped down a sacrifice bunt. The situation in Toronto, at the start of an inning, was, of course, much different. And if Mauer, who hit a game-winning single in the Twins' 5-4, 10-inning win over the Yankees on Tuesday, had bunted, it might have forced Toronto to alter the shift against him from that point on in the series.
"You want to play a shift on him like that, and he's a good bunter, just bunt it towards the line. That's a base hit," Gardenhire said. "It's a great way to start off an inning. Obviously, when there's men out there, we'd like to see him swing. There's times that he's going to have to do that, especially if teams play that shift on him."
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