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JUPITER Jesse Barfield Jersey , Fla. (AP) — Even as Matt Carpenter’s return to Grapefruit League play is delayed, both the team and the third baseman insist the lingering back tightness is no big deal.“If this was the middle of the season and these games counted I would be just working through some of the soreness and tightness that I’m going through, but I don’t feel the need to do that and go back to 70 percent because I’m pushing through a spring training game,” Carpenter said.Originally expected to return on Wednesday, Carpenter now may not return until Sunday.Manager Mike Shildt doesn’t believe the tightness will lead to Carpenter missing opening day next Thursday at Milwaukee.“It’s felt good the last three days,” Shildt said. “Really positive. We just want to make sure we’re progressing, nip it in the bud, being smart. We don’t want it to flare up and miss any time in Milwaukee.”Carpenter hasn’t appeared in a game since Friday. He originally experienced the back tightness on Saturday during fielding drills.He underwent an MRI in recent days which Carpenter said showed his back is in better shape than last year, when it bothered him throughout spring leading to a slow start to the season.“Because of it being early in the year and we’re about to break, I’m not pushing through a little tight back,” Carpenter said.Carpenter expects to remain in Jupiter when the Cardinals break camp on Sunday, skipping the team’s Monday exhibition game at Triple-A Memphis. He’ll rejoin St. Louis in Milwaukee the day prior to the March 28 season opener.A three-time All-Star, Carpenter is hitting .179 with three homers in 33 plate appearances this spring.“I feel like my swing and my at-bats are where they need to be ,” Carpenter said. “I had enough work before that as far as playing and defense to where a day or two would be good.”Carpenter’s absence over the past week prevented Shildt from fielding his expected opening day lineup at any point this spring. For Shildt, only two batting order spots are set: Carpenter at leadoff and Marcel Ozuna at cleanup.With Carpenter out, Dexter Fowler batted leadoff, followed on Thursday by Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong.Fowler smashed New York starter Domingo German’s first pitch over the right field wall for his first spring homer. Fowler hit a two-run homer in the second inning.Ozuna also hit his first homer of the spring, a solo shot to left in the third. MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Mauer is retiring after 15 major league seasons, six All-Star games, three Gold Glove awards, three batting titles and 2,123 career hits, all with his hometown Minnesota Twins.“Thank you, Minnesota Twins, and thank you, fans George Bell Jersey , for making my career as special and memorable as it was,” Mauer wrote in a full-page ad that will run Sunday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Because of you I can leave the game I love with a full and grateful heart.”Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million contract expired the day after the World Series ended, creating a natural parting from the game he grew up with in St. Paul, less than 10 miles from the downtown Minneapolis ballparks he called home with the Twins.“The decision came down to my health and my family,” Mauer wrote. “The risk of a concussion is always there, and I was reminded of that this season when I missed 30 games as a result of diving for a foul ball. That’s all it took this time around and it was all I need to bring me back to the struggles I faced in 2013.”The first overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School, the same program that produced Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, Mauer made his debut at the Metrodome on April 5, 2004, two weeks before his 21st birthday. He signed his megadeal three weeks before the Twins began playing at Target Field.Mauer acknowledged down the stretch this season he wasn’t sure yet whether he was interested in continuing to play, with twin 5-year-old daughters at home and a third child on the way for him and his wife, Maddie. Then came the final game of the season on Sept. 30 Dave Winfield Jersey , when he doubled in his last at-bat and donned his catcher’s gear to symbolically take one more pitch in the top of the ninth inning as he tearfully waved to the adorning crowd. Not many players could experience a farewell more poignant than that.What made the moment so emotional was the fact that Mauer hadn’t been behind the plate since Aug. 19, 2013, when a foul tip banged off his mask and triggered a concussion that forced him to move to first base“The concussion I experienced that season not only changed my life professionally with a move to first base, but changed me personally as well,” Mauer wrote.While his athleticism — he had a scholarship waiting for him to play quarterback at Florida State and was a sharpshooting guard on the basketball team in high school — allowed for a relatively smooth transition on defense, the effects of the head injury robbed him of his prowess at the plate for most of the next three years.As a catcher, easily the game’s most demanding and dangerous position, Mauer’s offensive ability was Hall of Fame-worthy. In 2006, he became the first catcher to lead the league in batting average since 1942. He did so again in 2008 and in 2009, when he hit .365 with a .444 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage to top the AL in all three categories and win the MVP award. In Mauer’s last 10 games as a catcher before the concussion in 2013, he went 17 for 43 with three doubles, three homers and nine RBIs.Staying healthy became a challenge, however Jack Morris Jersey , and his popularity lessened some in a state usually fiercely proud of homegrown players due to the size of his contract and the amount of his absences.A knee injury limited his rookie season to 35 games, and a strained left quadriceps had him on the disabled list for more than a month in 2007. Back trouble sidelined him for all of April in 2009, when Mauer still managed to hit 28 home runs, by far his career high. In 2011, soreness and weakness in both of his legs kept him out for more than two months.Moving to first base allowed him to play more often, but between 2014 and 2016 his cumulative average was just .267 and the three highest strikeout totals of his career came in each of those seasons.His renaissance came in 2017 as the Twins went from 59-103 to 85-77 and a spot in the AL wild card game, batting .305 with 36 doubles, the second-highest total of his career. That made it easy to see Mauer playing beyond 2018, but in the end he opted to walk away with a .306 batting average and a place in the top five on the team’s career lists in a clear majority of offensive categories. Mauer is their all-time leader in doubles and times on base and second in hits behind Kirby Puckett.

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