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Mauer stresses message: 'I feel great now'

Six-time All-Star doesn't deny vision issues, but he wants focus to be on how far he's come
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Mauer arrived at Twins camp on Tuesday and attempted to clarify his statements about his vision issues the past two seasons after suffering a season-ending and career-altering concussion in 2013 that forced him to give up catching and move to first base.

The former American League Most Valuable Player didn't deny that he had suffered from blurred vision at the plate at various times over the past two years since suffering the concussion, but he felt the story from the St. Paul Pioneer Press that initially broke the news focused more on the vision issues than on the fact that he's feeling much better heading into this season.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Mauer arrived at Twins camp on Tuesday and attempted to clarify his statements about his vision issues the past two seasons after suffering a season-ending and career-altering concussion in 2013 that forced him to give up catching and move to first base.

The former American League Most Valuable Player didn't deny that he had suffered from blurred vision at the plate at various times over the past two years since suffering the concussion, but he felt the story from the St. Paul Pioneer Press that initially broke the news focused more on the vision issues than on the fact that he's feeling much better heading into this season.

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"I'm excited about the progress I've made in the last two years," Mauer said. "I'm feeling great, and I'm excited to get out there and prove that. I feel great. It was a struggle at times, but I guess the message we're trying to get out there is how good I'm feeling and how far I've come."

Mauer added he didn't want to retract any of his statements about his sporadic vision issues at the plate, but he wanted to make it clear that he didn't want to use it as a catch-all excuse for his decline in production since suffering the concussion. Mauer was a six-time All-Star and three-time batting champion before the concussion, with a career slash line of .323/.405/.468, but he hit a combined .270/.348/.376 with 14 homers and 61 doubles over the past two seasons.

"I said what I said," Mauer said. "I think there are times where people take things and run with it. I'm not going to lie, there were times it was difficult, but I feel great now, and I think that message got lost. And I don't want that message to get lost because I've come a long way and worked too hard to focus on that."

Tweet from @RhettBollinger: Joe Mauer signs for fans pic.twitter.com/GH3cq9uq3p

Twins manager Paul Molitor also met briefly with Mauer on Tuesday to discuss the situation, and he said he understood why Mauer never told the training or coaching staff about the blurred vision.

"My take is: I don't have any problem with the fact he kept it private," Molitor said. "I think he kind of looked at it as a minor injury and that he could keep himself on the field. You can argue whether having vision issues and how that compares to playing with a strained hamstring -- they're probably apples and oranges -- but in some ways speaks to a guy's competitiveness and trying to find a way to contribute even though he wasn't 100 percent."

Mauer, who turns 33 on April 19, said the biggest difference came in the way he felt this offseason compared to the past two when working out with his trainer, Roger Erickson.

"It's been night and day," Mauer said. "I guess I would notice it a lot in the leg workouts and some of the heavier lifting [before]. And it's been a lot better, so I'm excited for that."

Mauer added he does still plan to try to wear sunglasses at the plate to see if it helps reduce glare and cut down on the vision issues. But he also indicated that the vision problems weren't limited to when the sun was out.

"It wasn't just day games," Mauer said. "It was unpredictable. That was part of the frustration. There were some good days, too. If there is a message today, I want to tell people how good I feel and how I've come. I'm just trying to move forward, and there are a lot of things to be excited about."

Mauer also said he's been in contact with his former teammate Justin Morneau, another former AL MVP who has struggled since a concussion. But one positive parallel is that three years after Morneau suffered his season-ending concussion with the Twins, he won the National League batting title with the Rockies.

"I hope it's the same case," Mauer said. "It would be great to have a good year here. We talk quite a bit. We are very close, and he was a good person to lean on with some of the things that I experienced."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

Minnesota Twins, Joe Mauer