The Twins announced over the weekend that Joe Mauer's rehab assignment begins today. The idea is for him to get about 50 AB, probably lasting about 10 games and bringing him back to the team around May 1. I'm glad that they've finally given us a date to look forward to. While 50 AB would be a pretty good way to make up for the time he missed in spring training, I don't think they should feel locked into that number.
Today, Mauer went 1-3 with 2 BB, and was able to run from first to third on one play and score from first on another. He spent 5 innings behind the plate, and will DH tomorrow. Now, let's say he jumps right back into his swing, and by the end of Thursday is 8-16 with 4 BB and has shown that he can run the bases and catch 6 innings without any discomfort. What would be the sense of putting him into 6 more games with Fort Myers, when the Twins are playing 3 against their most formidable division rivals and 3 against the defending AL champs?
Maybe he won't be conditioned enough to catch a full 9 innings, and he'll have to DH or rest after every start behind the plate. So what? Through the first 2 weeks of the season, Mike Redmond and Jose Morales have combined to hit .261/.333/.326 while failing to throw out a single attempted base stealer. Wouldn't it make a worthwhile difference to have Mauer's .400+ OBP in the lineup, even if it's only for 3 AB? Or to have his gold glove behind the plate, even if it's only for 6-7 innings every other game? If he's healthy enough to demolish the Florida State League, then he's healthy enough to do some damage against Cleveland and Tampa. Unless he's lost at the plate this week or suffers a setback, I'd encourage the Twins to bring him back up ASAP - the division is too close for them to be giving away games needlessly.
Crain to the DL
Apparently Jesse Crain's brutal 7th inning on Friday was so taxing that he's experiencing some inflammation in his shoulder, so the Twins are going to give him a couple of weeks to rest. Other than that disastrous inning, Crain had been the Twins most reliable reliever not named Joe Nathan all spring, allowing just 1 ER on 1 H and 2 BB with 6 K in 5.2 IP prior to his last appearance. I hope he'll be back in the minimum amount of time and can continue to be as effective as he was prior to the injury - there doesn't seem to be anyone else in the bullpen who can be relied upon right now.
Crain's injury gives a quick opportunity for Jose Mijares, whose awful spring training performance (and conditioning) cost him what many considered to be a certain roster spot. He's looked like the Mijares of last September in his early work with the Red Wings, allowing 0 ER on 2 H and 1 BB with 4 K in 6.1 IP. Obviously, if he can carry that kind of performance up to the Big Leagues, he won't be going back to AAA.