Joe Mauer has been the face of the Minnesota Twins for most of the century.
Mauer, a native of St. Paul who attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School, was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2001 draft and made his big league debut three years later, quickly establishing himself as the hometown hero and one of the best players in baseball.
Now, though, at age 35, Mauer admits the end may be drawing near. Twenty-four hours after hitting his fifth career grand slam Tuesday, Mauer told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he's considered retiring after this season -- the last under an eight-year, $184 million contract he signed after the 2010 season.
A .306 hitter over the course of a career that's included six All-Star berths, three Gold Gloves and the 2009 AL MVP award, Mauer is batting .272 this season with six home runs and 43 RBIs. But he's missed time this season with the third concussion of his career, and he and his wife are expecting their third child later this fall.
"There's a lot that goes into it than just, 'Do you want to play?'" Mauer told the newspaper. "There's a lot of different dynamics that go into it. I owe it to myself and my family to sit down and think about those things.
"It's interesting. It's a big decision, and I want to make sure I'm 100 percent about it."
That conversation, though, will have to wait. Mauer is hoping to finish out the season strong, starting Thursday night when the Twins open a four-game series at Kansas City.
"Not knowing either way, what direction I'm going. It's been a grind, a lot of things going on this year," Mauer said. "And I'm just trying to enjoy it."
Stephen Gonsalves (0-2) gets the start for Minnesota in the series opener and another chance to make a good impression on the Twins coaching staff.
The 24-year-old rookie left-hander has an 11.68 ERA through four big league starts and couldn't get out of the third inning his last time out, when the Royals tagged him for five runs over 2 1/3 innings Friday.
"Stephen's still having trouble showing enough command with his pitches to give him a chance to be a little bit more successful," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "The extra baserunners and some mistakes -- getting behind kind of caught up with him there, so we couldn't go too long."
Gonsalves was Minnesota's No. 5 prospect when he was called up to the big leagues last month.
"I've been battling with my fastball," Gonsalves said. "It's just cutting on me and I've been inconsistent with it. I've been working with (pitching coach) Garvin (Alston) on something new every week. My mind has been more on mechanics than competing and I had that struggle early this year with my mechanics all out of whack. It's kind of revolving back to that a little bit and I'm kind of searching for myself."
Heath Fillmyer, Kansas City's scheduled Thursday starter, struggled in his last outing, which came against Gonsalves and the Twins on Friday. Fillmyer (2-1, 4.75 ERA) lasted 2 1/3 innings and allowed six runs on six hits.
He has started two games against the Twins this season and is fortunate to be 0-0 after giving up nine runs and 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings.