Did Mauer take his power cue from home video of his 2-year-old self?
MINNEAPOLIS — A day before Joe Mauer delivered the second pinch-hit homer of his career Friday, Aug. 17, Fox Sports North posted a classic home video of the Twins’ star ripping a wiffle ball for a “home run” in the family front yard.
The 44-second clip shows a sawed-off Mauer — “I was probably 2 or 3,” he said — taking a couple of left-handed practice swings and tapping the imaginary home plate before connecting. Mauer, decked out in blue shorts and a black undershirt, hit the ball with a Statcast-generated launch angle of 61 degrees and an exit velocity of 10.3 mph.
He also pulled it down the would-be right-field line. The 63-foot blast might have rolled onto Lexington Parkway if not for a street light that halted its path.
Mauer’s top speed was 3.6 mph, according to Statcast.
“I saw it; I was laughing,” Mauer said. “We were so young.”
Older brothers Jake and Billy Mauer appeared in the clip as well. Jake retrieved the ball and threw home to Billy, wearing a batting glove and a Chicago Cubs cap.
“From what I saw, you see Jake in the background,” Mauer said. “Jake had darker hair, and Bill had kind of blond hair. It was just the brothers out there messing around.”
Off camera, a high-pitched voice can be heard yelling, “All right, Joe!” as Mauer completes his mad dash. A female neighbor, perhaps?
“It was Jake and Bill rooting me on,” Mauer said, “but they had some high voices back then.”
Veteran reliever Matt Belisle, on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation in his right knee, threw 25 to 30 pitches of live batting practice Saturday afternoon and came away encouraged.
Twins manager Paul Molitor noted “some rust” for Belisle, who hasn’t pitched since Aug. 6, and suggested he would likely have to go through the same process “at least one more time before we decide what the next step is.”
Facing outfielders Johnny Field and Jake Cave, Belisle took the mound in his full game uniform, complete with high socks. He said he has always done that whenever he’s had to throw live BP or a simulated game.
“It’s just something I’ve always had fun doing,” he said. “I feel like it creates a little deeper practice. I’m just going to do everything I can to simulate the real game, try to get my mind there and my game glove and my uni, the whole thing.”
Does that include drinking a Red Bull as well?
“I don’t do any of that,” the fitness buff said. “I let all the other guys do the Red Bull.”
Saddled with a career-worst 7.71 earned-run average in 27 combined outings for the Twins and Cleveland Indians this season, Belisle sharpened his slider during a monthlong stretch that saw him strike out a batter per inning before a recent downturn. For that he credited former big-league pitcher Bob Milacki, who helped him during his time with the Washington Nationals.
“He showed me a couple things (in 2016) that really helped it click,” Belisle said. “I dug up some stuff to try to find him, and he was nice enough to help me out. He reminded me of something I did back then. Sometimes you go back in the annals of the grips and whatnot and one works.”
Matt Magill was unable to get the final out and secure his first career save on Friday night, but Molitor was still impressed by how he attacked rookie pinch-hitter Victor Reyes during a 13-pitch walk.
“He didn’t back down,” Molitor said. “He just kept going after him, challenging him with what he had. That was a heck of a battle emotionally.”
Magill touched 97 mph four times in a 33-pitch outing that included just five sliders. Every pitch he threw to Reyes was either a two- or four-seam fastball.
Lefty Taylor Rogers was summoned to retire switch-hitter Jeimer Candelario on just two pitches to record his first career save.