"That was the easiest 96 I think I've ever seen,'' David Price said. "When he threw that first pitch I thought it was going to be 90-91 and it popped up at 96. It doesn't even look like the ball really jumps out of his hand. It's just so smooth, and then you look at that scoreboard and its 95, 96, 97. It gets on hitters pretty quick.''

Manager Joe Maddon is reasonably impressed.

"This kid is going to be really good,'' he said. "He is good, and he's going to be really good. I don't know exactly how that's all going to work out in the near-future and the future, but I'll say this: He has a chance to be very special.''

Taking heat: Justin Morneau doesn't believe his friend Joe Mauer deserves the grief he has been getting from Twins fans.

"Joe's not one to make excuses," Morneau said. "The reality is, he tried to come back too soon from knee surgery. Could (the Twins) have helped him out if they said he never built back his strength, instead of calling it bilateral leg weakness? I think it would have been a lot different if they said he tried to come back too soon so he could help our team win."

Mauer never had his legs under him after hurrying back from knee surgery before spring training, which helps explains why he went into the weekend hitting .287 with three homers and 30 RBIs. He will write it off as a lost season and work toward being Comeback Player of the Year in 2012.

"I understand that I'm probably going to get more of (the criticism) than anybody in this clubhouse," Mauer said. "Just given the fact that I'm from (Minnesota), I have a big contract — all that stuff."

The last word: "Going against him was like going against Muhammad Ali. Mo is the Muhammad Ali of baseball.'' — Alex Rodriguez on Rivera.


Twitter @ChiTribRogers