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Mauer looks to catch more in 2013

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Mauer looks to catch more in 2013

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Joe Mauer has always steadfastly believed that his value is highest and his impact greatest when his smooth swing is in the lineup on offense and he's crouching behind the plate on defense.

He somewhat reluctantly backed off his insistence on catching as much as possible last season as the Minnesota Twins urged him to spend more time at first base and designated hitter to reduce the wear and tear on a body that broke down repeatedly in 2011.

The approach was a smashing success. Mauer played in a career-high 147 games and returned to form as one of the best hitters in the American League after a disastrous 2011 season.

Now that he is completely healthy as the Twins prepare for spring training, Mauer fully plans on spending more time at catcher this season.

And GM Terry Ryan thinks it could be a lot more time.

``I've been preparing for the season to be the everyday catcher,'' Mauer said on Friday night as the Twins opened their annual fan festival. ``I can go over to first if they need me to do that. I can DH if they need me to do that, too. The way I've been preparing is catching every day.''

Things couldn't have gone much worse for Mauer in 2011, the first season of an eight-year, $184 million contract extension that kept the hometown star away from the big-market teams. Numerous injuries, including a mysteriously vague ``bi-lateral leg weakness,'' contributed to a career-low .287 average with just three homers in 82 games. The monumental struggles led the once-adoring home crowd to turn on Mauer, occasionally booing him when he stepped to the plate late in the year.

He bounced back in a big way in 2012, hitting .319 and leading the league with a .416 on-base percentage. He also found a balance between catching, designated hitter and first base that kept his legs fresh and his bat in the lineup all season long. He only caught 74 games, was the designated hitter for 42 games and spent the rest of the time at first base, in part because Justin Morneau was still working his way back from concussion problems and several other nagging injuries that had plagued him the previous two seasons.

``I think it worked out real well last year as far as handling Joe and keeping him on the field and plenty of at-bats, all those at-bats we got and not beating him up too much,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``I don't see any reason to change it too awful much from there. Games are going to dictate it and the way we're playing is going to dictate it, and how people are swinging. But the important thing is, Morneau and Mauer both, keep them on the field, keep them in there.''

Morneau is healthy again as well, which would seem to reduce the need for Mauer to play first base. Ryan seems to agree that Mauer is ready to handle a substantial increase in his catching duties.

``We're looking for him to catch somewhere around 120 games,'' Ryan said. ``The other at-bats will come, some at DH and some at first base. But when you start talking about an everyday catcher, when you get him up to 125 games, that's a full load.''

That's quite a big step up for such a valuable piece of the Twins puzzle. Many in the organization thought that the rigors of catching were the biggest reason for Mauer's struggles in 2011. With so much of the team's payroll invested in him for the next six seasons, it's paramount that his left-handed swing is there as much as possible for a team that has lost 191 games over the last two years.

``You have to have his bat in the lineup,'' closer Glen Perkins said. ``Having him out changes everything. If we get a scouting report on the Tigers without Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera, it changes things. And to get his bat in the lineup on a daily basis is the most important thing. And I think they did a really good job with that last season.''

Gardenhire said if all goes well and Mauer remains healthy, he doesn't have a problem with putting him at catcher more this season.

``Well, I'll send him out to the bullpen and he can work out there,'' Gardenhire deadpanned. ``I mean, if Joe wants to catch more, he's going to tell me. That's the great thing, we talk. I talk to him every day about, `Hey, this is my plan. This is what I'd like to do.'''

Long one of the Twin Cities' most eligible bachelors, Mauer got married this offseason. The leg and knee problems of two years ago are long behind him, and he's eager to help a team that is used to contending for AL Central titles to recover after two straight last-place finishes. The way he sees it, the best way for him to do that is to get behind the plate and call the game.

``Obviously the last two seasons haven't went according to plan,'' Mauer said. ``We expect a winner out here. Everybody does. Ever since I've been here we've been pretty darn good and we're trying to get back to that level.''

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Former Hoya Marcus Derrickson signs a two-way contract with Golden State Warriors

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Former Hoya Marcus Derrickson signs a two-way contract with Golden State Warriors

Leaving the Georgetown Hoyas a season early is initially paying off for Marcus Derrickson. 

Less than a month before what would have been his senior season at Georgetown, the 6-7 forward has signed a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors. 

Derrickson nabbed the second two-way position on the Warriors after an outstanding Summer League translated to a solid preseason.

Fitting right into the Warriors deep-ball oriented scheme, Derrickson was 6-16 from three point range during the five-game preseason. He's a versatile stretch-four that continues to develop and improve on his outside game. 

By signing a two-way contract, the former All-Big East Second teamer will have a chance to get called up to the two-time defending NBA champions at any point this season for up to 45 days. The remaining time will be with the Warriors' G-league affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors

This arrangement will earn Derrickson a contract of $75,000 and a prorated amount for however much time he is practicing/ playing with Golden State. 

If he is called up to the NBA for more than the allotted 45 days, then the Warriors are obligated to give him a minimum rookie contract. 

Derrickson continues to prove himself as the list of aspiring players dwindles. As each contract begins to near its end, the Warriors time after time offer another opportunity.

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.

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