ESPN Insider Request MLB Joe Mauer Talks, Ron Washington

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The Joe Mauer contract negotiations remain cordial. No deadlines have been set, no ultimatums have been given. Optimism about the possibility of a long-term deal is still in place, because the Twins desperately want to keep Mauer and Mauer would like to remain with Minnesota.


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Joe Mauer seems to be blissfully unaffected by his contract talks, but they could be delayed a while if no agreement is reached soon.
But the reality of the calendar is that if a deal is to be struck, it will probably either happen very soon -- sometime in the next couple of weeks, or much sooner -- or it will happen way down the road, months from now.


If no deal is struck before the start of the season, other issues will impede on the negotiating process. The Twins will open the year in the new ballpark, with pomp and circumstance, and it may be that they will want to table the Mauer talks for a time, if unresolved, so that the catcher will be able to fully focus on helping them win in 2010. It may be that Mauer, himself, would prefer to wait a little longer.

If a deal is not reached before the season, the negotiations would most likely be revisited a few months down the road, in the way that Cal Ripken's negotiations with the Orioles once were finalized later in the season. Ron Shapiro represented Ripken then -- and now Shapiro represents Mauer.

As each day goes by without a deal, Mauer moves one day closer to the time when other teams, like the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Mets, could enter the bidding -- the time in the fall when Mauer becomes a free agent.

So the next 384 hours could be absolutely crucial to what may or may not happen to the future of Mauer, and the Twins.

The Twins, meanwhile, are going to keep Joe Nathan's throwing session a private matter. One game of catch could change the season for the Twins, writes Kelsie Smith.

E-mailed Twins reliever Pat Neshek and asked about how the Twins' bullpen, given its tight-knit culture, is responding to the Nathan situation. His response:

"Our bullpen really centers around Nathan, so this, of course, is a huge blow to the 'pen. When I first got up in 2006, I was amazed that the bullpen guys all stretched together, hung out together and did things off the field together.

"As far as the bullpen goes, Nathan and Matt Guerrier are the best of friends. Jesse Crain is not too far behind and always together with them. Jose Mijares is quiet and does his own thing. I can't quite get a read on Clay Condrey. In years past it was this way as well. We like to run and lift together and do things as a group and I'm pretty sure this doesn't happen with other teams. Jim Thome was commenting the other day to Kevin Slowey that this was probably the nicest atmosphere and bunch of guys he has been around, it was cool to hear coming from him."

• Vin Scully was admitted to a hospital after hitting his head, writes Austin Knoblauch.

• One of the most-asked questions in baseball about the Ron Washington news is this: Who leaked the information?

Until two days ago, the fact that this was an internal matter made it much easier for the Rangers to cope with the situation. Washington had tested positive, the Rangers' front office knew about it, but the team moved on and played well over the last five months of the season, and all was good.

But months later, news of Washington's suspension has escaped from the shadows, and now the public perception of Washington is different; the potential for distraction is different. The Rangers' early-season success or failure will inevitably be cast by some fans and media through the prism of the Washington revelation.

Seemingly, nothing has changed since last summer for Ron Washington; no positive tests, apparently, and no change in his employment status. But the reality now, in a baseball world that is so heavily built on perception, is that everything has changed for him.

Washington acknowledged that he used amphetamines and marijuana. You understand why Washington felt the need to be honest, but I totally agree with what Michael Young said about all this, from the Anthony Andro story: "Now we're on a slippery slope. Give me a break. As far as I'm concerned, he should have no questions to answer apart from what happened in this particular instance."

Randy Galloway writes that e-mailers disagree with Nolan Ryan on the notion of second chances.

The Rangers deny that Washington was blackmailed, writes Evan Grant.


From the box scores

1. Tim Hudson continues to have an excellent spring training, writes David O'Brien.

2. Clay Buchholz continues to look poised for a breakout year.

3. Jeremy Guthrie is again having a terrible spring, and this resembles what he did last year, writes Dan Connolly. If you were to rank teams in order of how stuff is faring for them in spring training this year, the Orioles would have to be right near the bottom, because of the Brian Roberts injury and the struggles of some of their pitchers.

4. Carlos Pena got his first hit.

5. Ricky Nolasco had a good day.

6. Oliver Perez threw strikes again.

7. Travis Hafner showed some of his old power.


The battle for jobs

1. Jaime Garcia didn't throw a pitch and gained ground in the competition for the No. 5 spot in the Cardinals' rotation, writes Derrick Goold.

2. Dontrelle Willis threw strikes, and remains in contention for a spot in the Tigers' rotation.

3. A Rule 5 draft pick has a shot at making the Seattle roster, writes Geoff Baker. Michael Saunders was optioned to the minors.

4. The D-Backs Gerardo Parra could be looking at about 350 at-bats this year, writes Nick Piecoro.

5. Chad Gaudin is trying to win the No. 5 spot in the Yankees' rotation.

6. The Marlins' Logan Morrison is working to put his bad start behind him.

7. Chris Volstad and Andrew Miller are going to have to win their spots in the Florida rotation, says Fredi Gonzalez.

8. Drew Butera could settle in as the Twins' backup catcher, writes La Velle Neal.

9. Travis Snider is making his case to make the Blue Jays, as Mike Rutsey writes.


Dings and dents

1. The Ron Washington situation obscured some big news in the Rangers' camp: Tommy Hunter, so important to what Texas is trying to accomplish this year, strained a rib cage muscle and could start the year on the disabled list.

2. Mat Gamel is lost for the next six weeks.

3. Brad Lidge feels better, but knows it might be tough for him to be ready at the start of the regular season.

4. Ted Lilly remains on schedule to return to the Cubs in mid-to-late April.

5. Matt Holliday hopes to return to the Cardinals' lineup next week.

6. Carlos Beltran tells Kevin Kernan that he'll be stronger than ever when he comes back. That would be tremendous for the Mets.

7. The Dodgers have taken some hits in their bullpen depth, including this one -- Cory Wade will be out at least a month after having shoulder surgery.

8. Some injured Oakland pitchers hope to be healthy by Opening Day.

9. A Royals' prospect strained his oblique.

10. Bobby Seay and Zach Miner are banged up.

11. An Orioles pitcher is down and out with a hamstring issue, writes Peter Schmuck.

12. The Pirates' bus was involved in an accident, writes Dejan Kovacevic.


Moves, deals and decisions

1. Mark Reynolds signed his multi-year deal, and has peace of mind, writes Nick Piecoro.

2. Richard Justice wonders if the Astros would consider dumping Kaz Matsui.

3. Armando Galarraga was assigned to the minors by the Tigers.

4. If Manny Corpas is to work as the Rockies' closer, he needs to go back to performing at his 2007 level, writes Woody Paige.

5. Casey Kelly is going to start in Double-A this year.

6. The Nationals got a pitcher back from the Blue Jays.


Thursday's games

1. We got a look at the Tigers' outfield, present and past, as Lynn Henning writes.

2. Manny Ramirez sparkled, as Jim Peltz writes.

3. Ervin Santana felt good, but got knocked around.


Other stuff

• Edgar Renteria is swinging easy after his surgery, writes Henry Schulman.

• Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia are blending in well together, writes Peter Abraham.

• The Cubs need John Grabow to be good, writes Dave van Dyck.

• Matt Garza is motivated by his family.

• Rick Ankiel needs to hit lefties for the Royals' outfield to operate at peak efficiency, writes Bob Dutton.

• The Phillies have capacity for standing room only, writes Bill Conlin. Their ballpark might be my favorite spring training site in baseball.

• Alexei Ramirez has gotten more comfortable, writes Mark Gonzales.

• Orlando Cabrera is a golden addition for the Cincinnati Reds.

• Mark Teixeira provides a lesson on how to handle the big stage, writes Mike Vaccaro.

• A Houston pitcher has an unorthodox delivery, writes Zachary Levine.

• John Buck likes the Jays' pitching staff, writes Richard Griffin.

• Brian Fuentes feels like he has found a way to regain some velocity.

• The Indians' Carlos Carrasco likes to watch other pitchers throw.

• Davey Johnson is enjoying his new role with the Nats.

• Jason Giambi is excited for the upcoming season, writes Jim Armstrong.

• Thanks for the notes of condolence in the aftermath of Vanderbilt's first-round loss; as one of their players said, it was just heart-breaking. The bottom line: The Commodores executed badly and missed free throws in key spots. They just didn't play well. My NCAA bracket is officially in shreds, and the joy of watching the NCAA tournament this year is absolutely gone. The fetal position isn't as comforting as I would have imagined, but hey, maybe it'll get better; only 14 hours have passed since the loss, as I write this.

And today will be better than yesterday. For sure.

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