FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Mauer made another big step in his recovery from offseason surgery on his left knee when he made his first start behind the plate in Grapefruit League play on Saturday against the Rays.
Mauer, who caught right-hander Nick Blackburn for five innings, went 1-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and two runs in the Twins' 9-2 win at Hammond Stadium.
"I felt good today, and I feel good now," Mauer said. "But I'll probably be a little sore tomorrow. Everything is going as planned.
Mauer, who underwent minor surgery in December to alleviate irritation that was being caused by tissue in the lining of his left knee joint, actually made his debut at catcher on Thursday when he caught two innings in a Minor League game, but this was his first action behind the plate in a big league game this spring.
Mauer was even tested early defensively, when Reid Brignac, the game's second batter, dropped a bunt down the third-base line and beat out the throw from Mauer for an infield single. But Mauer was happy that he got that early test on a play he'll see plenty during the regular season.
"It was interesting," Mauer said with a smile. "That's baseball. It usually finds you when you first get out there. But it was a play I'll need to make later, so it was good to get it out of the way."
Mauer looked like his usual self at the plate, though, grounding out on a hard-hit ball to first base in his first at-bat before drawing a walk in the third inning. He then drove home his first run of Spring Training with a single up the middle in the fourth inning.
But Mauer, who went 1-for-3 as the club's designated hitter on Wednesday in his only other appearance in Grapefruit League play, said he's more worried about his defense than his offense at this point.
"I feel pretty good, timing-wise," Mauer said. "I've had some good at-bats. But I think that's further down the list. I'm trying to get my strength and legs underneath me to get ready for the season."
Mauer is not ready to catch every day, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been pleased with his progress and has already come up with a plan to make sure he'll be available for Opening Day.
"I've come up with a schedule for the rest of Spring Training for him, and I told him today that it's all written out and it's what we're going to do," Gardenhire said. "He said he's good with that, so we'll see where he's at by the end of Spring Training and go from there."
Gardenhire also joked that there's a bright side to Mauer's spring, as he'll certainly be well-rested heading into the regular season.
"He should be fresh," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "I look at the positives. Some people think he'll need more catching, but I think he'll be fresh. I've seen him do it before."
Mauer, however, noted that he might have to take some days off in April, considering the club has just one off-day over the first 21 days of the season.
"I'll be ready to go but I guess I might take it a little bit easier in April," Mauer said. "But I'm going to be honest with Gardy and go from there."
That honesty was also apparent when Mauer admitted he's trying not to think too far ahead, given the fact that he's still trying to work on building strength in his surgically repaired knee.
"I'm more worried about today and tomorrow," Mauer said. "We'll get there when we get there. But I felt great today, and I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel tomorrow."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
I miss you Frehley........