Everyday Joe? Twins hope so

The coronation of Twins phenom Joe Mauer begins next season now that All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski is gone.

Updated: November 25, 2003, 10:01 AM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan gathered his staff in Fort Myers, Fla., in late October and embarked on the annual autumn ritual of dissecting the organization and assessing its future. Among the topics under discussion was the progress of catcher Joe Mauer, the No. 1 pick in the June 2001 draft and Baseball America's latest Minor League Player of the Year.

One after another, Twins instructors and scouts raved about Mauer's game. Competitiveness? Innate. Maturity? A real man. Good teammate? As good as it gets. The Twins love Mauer's left-handed bat, his defense, and his ability to work with pitchers and shut down a running game. He's always on time, signs every autograph, is cordial to reporters and flosses regularly between meals.

Last week Ryan traded All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco for reliever Joe Nathan and two minor-leaguers, creating a void in the Minnesota lineup. While Ryan is doing his best to dampen expectations -- insisting that Mauer will have to compete to win a job in spring training -- he gets paid not to make assumptions.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer