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TWINS: Introducing Kurt Suzuki, 'the next Joe Mauer'

by Mike McFeely

Fort Myers, Fla.

The Twins tried to sign veteran catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia after announcing All-Star Joe Mauer would move to first base for the 2014 season. The team was unsuccessful in those pursuits, and eventually signed Kurt Suzuki.

So the title of The Catcher Who Is Replacing Joe Mauer falls on Suzuki, entering his eighth year in the big leagues. Suzuki began his career with five-plus years in Oakland before going to Washington during the 2012 season. He returned to the Athletics late last in 2013.

How often has he been asked about being "the next Joe Mauer?"

"Everybody I've talked to has asked me about that. It's all good. I understand. I understand the position that comes with that. I have a lot of respect for Joe. Rightfully so, everybody is asking me about it," Suzuki said prior to a spring training workout this week.

Kurt Suzuki

Manager Ron Gardenhire has said Mauer will continue to be a source of information for the Twins' catchers and coaching staff. Just because he's moved to first base doesn't mean he doesn't have a little catcher left in him.

"Me and Joe talk every day, whether it's about catching or other stuff. We're locker mates, right 

next to each other," Suzuki said. "We talk about pitchers, whether it is certain guys or whatever. He's definitely going to be a guy I'm going to lean on."

Suzuki averaged 14 home runs a year from 2009-2011, but hasn't provided much offense the last couple of years. He played 94 games last season, hitting just .232 with 5 homers and 25 RBI splitting time between Washington and Oakland. After making runs at Pierzynski and Saltalamacchia, the Twins aren't expecting much offense from Suzuki. He's considered solid defensively and at one time was quite adept at throwing out runners, although he dropped off in that area last year, too.

He's happy to be with the Twins, having signed a one-year contract for $2.75 million. That is significantly less than the approximately $5 million per year he made the last three seasons. He could use the Twins as a springboard into a bigger contract next year.

It's always an organization I've been attracted to. I love the way they play the game," Suzuki said. "They are very fundamentally sound, they do things the right way. They are a winning ballclub. I am excited to be a part of it."

Suzuki is also expected to be a veteran mentor to young catcher Josmil Pinto, who has been slowed this spring because of a shoulder injury. Suzuki views the Twins as an opportunity with Mauer moving to first and Pinto not quite ready to be an everyday catcher.

"Opportunity comes into play," Suzuki said. "I also want to win. I've been to the playoffs the last couple of years and it's definitely the greatest time I've had in baseball. I want to go back and I feel like this team has a very good chance."

Suzuki is probably a little more optimistic than most Twins fans. 

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