The Associated Press reports Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer (back) said he will not be ready to play by Opening Day because of pain and inflammation in his lower back. The team does not view his injury as a long-term problem, but there is no timetable for his return.
Mauer is dealing with inflammation in the sacroiliac joint in his lower back, which connects the spine to the pelvis. The offseason surgery he had in December to remove blockage from one of his kidneys is in no way related to his back injury.
He has received multiple opinions from doctors who advised him to change his medication in hopes of reducing the inflammation in his back. Mauer has been able to throw, swing and perform strengthening exercises but is unable to run without experiencing pain.
Mauer won the American League batting title and Gold Glove Award in 2008, and his absence in the early going in 2009 would be a huge loss for the Twins. Backup catcher Mike Redmond, as well as minor league catchers Jose Morales, Drew Butera and Wilson Ramos, are among the names that could receive time behind the plate if Mauer has to miss significant time. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that Redmond will not be able to catch everyday, so the team would have to use a young catching prospect to spell Redmond.
Those that own Mauer in their fantasy leagues should be extremely concerned with this situation. The fact that there is no concrete timetable for his return could indicate he will be sidelined for a while. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on their star catcher to see how his new medication will affect the pain and swelling in his back.
If Mauer does end up missing a good chunk of the beginning of the season, none of the team's replacements at catcher would be worthy of fantasy consideration.
If you've already drafted Mauer, start looking for a replacement immediately. If your draft is coming up, you'll probably see Mauer fall outside the top tier of backstops. While it may be tempting to pick him if he slips into the middle rounds, weigh your team's needs against Mauer's potential value. Back problems for catchers could linger.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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