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Mauer's 13th Opening Day ties Killebrew

Lifelong Twin: 2017 opener has 'the same feeling I've had for the other 12 I've been in'
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer continues to climb the Twins' all-time records lists, and he hit another milestone against the Royals on Monday, as it marked his 13th Opening Day, tying the franchise record set by Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Mauer is in his 14th season with the Twins, but missed the opener during his American League Most Valuable Player Award-winning season in 2009 with a back injury.

Full Game Coverage

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer continues to climb the Twins' all-time records lists, and he hit another milestone against the Royals on Monday, as it marked his 13th Opening Day, tying the franchise record set by Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Mauer is in his 14th season with the Twins, but missed the opener during his American League Most Valuable Player Award-winning season in 2009 with a back injury.

Full Game Coverage

"Any time you're mentioned with Harmon, it's a pretty good thing," Mauer said. "I don't really know what to think about it to be honest. I'm just excited, and it's the same feeling I've had for the other 12 I've been in."

One change, however, was Mauer's placement fourth in the batting order against lefty Danny Duffy, his first start at cleanup since April 30, 2006. Twins manager Paul Molitor said he's going to experiment with Mauer's spot in the lineup against lefties after he hit .224/.291/.319 against them in 127 plate appearances last year.

Molitor indicated Mauer could even bat further down the lineup against lefties, but he felt the veteran was a good fit in that spot on Opening Day because of his experience.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Mauer discusses hitting approach

"I think getting a good at-bat from that spot is really important," Molitor said. "It also sets up Miguel [Sano] to hit two- or three-run homers. It might not be ideal against lefties, but we'll see different lineups against lefties going forward."

Mauer, who turns 34 on April 19, hit .261/.363/.389 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs in 134 games last year, making just 20 starts over the club's last 43 games because of a quad injury. But he's healthy now, and Statcast™ provides some optimism for this year.

Of the 146 players eligible for the batting title, Mauer had the fourth-largest difference between his OPS, and Statcast™'s estimated OPS in 2016. Mauer had a .752 OPS, but based on his average launch angle and exit velocity, his estimated OPS was .845. He's also coming off a strong spring that saw him hit .290/.463/.452.

But it's telling Mauer had an 87.1-mph average exit velocity against lefties, but averaged 91 mph against righties, according to Statcast™, which is a reason why the club wants to protect him against tough lefties this year.

Video: BAL@MIN: Mauer pads lead with an RBI single

Worth noting

• Former Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who spent 32 years on Minnesota's coaching staff, threw out the first pitch before Monday's game.

• The Twins wore a special Opening Day patch honoring Minor Leaguer Yorman Landa, who died in a car accident in the offseason. The Twins honored both Landa and Kansas City's Yordano Ventura with a moment of silence before the game.

Jorge Polanco became the 11th different shortstop in the last 12 years to start on Opening Day for the Twins.

• Left-hander Adalberto Mejia threw five innings against Triple-A Rochester on Sunday before rejoining the Twins on Monday. He's expected to start on Saturday against the White Sox.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins, Joe Mauer