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Resurgent Mauer sees himself as lifelong Twin

Entering final season of contract, former MVP wants to keep playing
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For former American League MVP Award winner and six-time All-Star Joe Mauer, playing for his hometown Twins is all he has ever known.

This marks his 17th big league camp with Minnesota, but he heads into this season with uncertainty, as he's in the final year of his eight-year, $184 million contract. Mauer, 34, made it clear he can't see himself playing for any other club, and he believes he still has plenty left after putting up his best numbers in 2017 since sustaining his career-altering concussion in '13.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For former American League MVP Award winner and six-time All-Star Joe Mauer, playing for his hometown Twins is all he has ever known.

This marks his 17th big league camp with Minnesota, but he heads into this season with uncertainty, as he's in the final year of his eight-year, $184 million contract. Mauer, 34, made it clear he can't see himself playing for any other club, and he believes he still has plenty left after putting up his best numbers in 2017 since sustaining his career-altering concussion in '13.

"I don't get too far ahead of myself," said Mauer, who insists it's not something he's thinking about. "I just try to concentrate on the year and what I can do to help us get to where we want to get to. I'm just kind of wanting to get out there and play some baseball and enjoy this season."

Twins manager Paul Molitor, however, said he wouldn't blame Mauer if his contract status pops into his head here and there, as Molitor went through a similar situation as a longtime Brewer who thought he'd never play for any other team, only to finish his career with the Blue Jays and Twins. Molitor, though, doesn't think Mauer will go through the same scenario.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I think Joe is going to be a lifelong Twin," Molitor said. "That's my gut reaction."

Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who is also in the last year of his contract, voiced a similar opinion to Molitor, as neither could picture Mauer in any other uniform.

"He'll always be a Twin," Dozier said. "I don't know how much longer he wants to play, but you saw what he did last year and he was pretty dang good."

Mauer experienced a revival last season, hitting .305/.384/.417 in 141 games while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. How he fares this year could determine what direction the Twins go at first base moving forward, as they don't have any first-base prospects close to the big leagues, though Miguel Sano could move there from third base. Mauer understands that his future with the organization isn't fully in his control, but that he wants to keep playing beyond this season.

"As long as I'm contributing and having fun and physically able to do that, I want to go as long as I can," Mauer said. "Sometimes, that decision is made for you, but if it's up to me, I'd like to play as long as I can because I enjoy to go out and compete."

Tweet from @RhettBollinger: A slow-motion look at Joe Mauer���s swing pic.twitter.com/ktzvVmqAHe

Mauer, a St. Paul, Minn., native selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 Draft, also understands how much the $184 million deal has clouded some fans' opinions about him, but he said the length of the contract was the most important thing to him, as he never wanted to leave Minnesota and made sure it had a full no-trade clause as well.

"I like where I'm at," Mauer said. "Over the years, that was kind of the goal. I was lucky enough to be drafted by the team I grew up rooting for and cheering on. To be able to play here and win here, that's what I have always wanted to do."

Mauer, though, knows there are some fans who viewed his contract, which at the time was the fourth largest in Major League history and the largest given to a catcher, as holding the team back. Mauer's career took an unexpected turn with the concussion in 2013 that forced him to move to first base and limited his production over the next three seasons.

Video: Molitor, Mauer compare feel of 2018 camp to 2017

While getting paid $161 million over the last seven years, Mauer's production has been worth $116.8 million, per Fangraphs.com. Mauer's production over his first seven seasons was worth $182 million, per those calculations, while he was paid $34 million.

"I've always said you can't control what people think about you," Mauer said. "Every day I go out there, I give it my best, and at the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror and be happy about how I go about every day."

As for any talk about retirement, Mauer said it's premature, but he'll weigh plenty of factors once he gets to that point, including his family life with his wife, Maddie, and twin daughters, Emily and Maren, who will turn 5 in July.

"Obviously, family is one of them, health is one of them and contributing," Mauer said. "But as long as I'm feeling good and contributing, I want to play as long as I can."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook, and listen to his podcast,

Minnesota Twins, Joe Mauer