Gardenhire: All-star pressure got to Mauer early in the year

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Joe Mauer got out to the worst start of his Major League career at the start of the season. Mauer's typical .300-plus batting average was down and his normally low strike out numbers were up.

Friday, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire shared his theory on why.

"There's no doubt he was pressing before the all-star game," Gardenhire told reporters. "It's the first time in my career as a manager here that I've seen Joe Mauer really want something bad, and that was to play in that all-star game. I really think that played a part in it. I don't think he would ever admit to it, but in my opinion it definitely did."

It was the first all-star game hosted in Minnesota since 1985.

In April, Mauer was announced as the all-star ambassador. Gardenhire believes Mauer's desire to be an all-star along with a position switch to first base had Mauer looking to hit more home runs.

"He was trying to stretch it out and drive the ball," Gardenhire said. "A Joe Mauer bad habit is nothing like one of these other guys' bad habits. He's a great hitter. People strike out in this game. It's only alarming because it's Joe Mauer."

The Pioneer Press notes that Mauer finally did get rolling in late June, but shortly thereafter wound up on the disabled list for six weeks because of a strained oblique.

Gardenhire says since Mauer's return on Aug. 11 he has seen a difference in his "whole makeup."

According to Puckett's Pond, Mauer was hitting .271 with only 28 runs batted in before the all-star game. Since his return, Mauer has driven in 12 runs in just 17 games and has upped his batting average to .288. Mauer has struck out just eight times since the break as well.

Mauer doesn't think the added pressure got to him. He says minor injuries and back spasms were to blame.

"I definitely wanted to make the [All-Start] team, but I don't know if that had anything to do with my first half," Mauer told the Star Tribune. "I had back spasms early, and where I started swinging well, something like that always popped up."

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