Mauer & Valencia Look Ahead (Photos & Video)

Thursday, Minnesota Twins star catcher Joe Mauer and young third baseman Danny Valencia appeared at Maynard's restaurant in the Minneapolis suburb of Excelsior, Minnesota. Sitting in a heated tent, the two ballplayers were present on behalf of the Twins Caravan. The Caravan is an annual event where current and former Twins players and coaches travel through the Upper Midwest (AKA Twins Territory), visiting different places in each community, while interacting with fans and media. 

The above original photos show Mauer and Valencia being interviewed live on 1500 ESPN Radio Twin Cities

Mauer was asked what he thought about the Tigers signing of superstar first baseman Prince Fielder.

“When Alex Rodriguez went to the Yankees that first year, it looks great on paper, but you still have to go out there and play the games," explained Mauer.

“We always know the Tigers are tough and they're probably gonna be there at the end, but were hoping were gonna be there too”, added the St. Paul native.

In the first year of an eight-year/$184 million contract, Mauer suffered through an injury plagued season, drawing a large amount of criticism from a fanbase that once revered him unconditionally.

Mauer was asked how he felt physically heading into spring training.

“For me, comparing this year to last year, at this point is night and day, I'm feeling a lot better heading into this camp. I'm looking forward to the next couple weeks, continuing to build strength and getting ready for the season,” said Mauer.

The former prep basketball player was later asked if he had met Minnesota Timberwolves rookie sensation Ricky Rubio as of yet.

"I'd like too.  I'd love to meet him, that'd be great to have him come out to some games," expressed Mauer.

I am quite certain this meeting of the minds can be arranged.

Miami native Danny Valencia offered up a bit more of a lighthearted approach to his portion of the interview.

Valencia has found his way into the “Final Four” of a local radio contest titled “Manuary 2012.” The goal of this promotion involves determining the “hottest guy” in Minnesota.

Valencia is now pitted against Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, after already besting Broncos WR Eric Decker and Vikings QB Christian Ponder.

Asked about his successful run in this competition, the University of Miami alum jokingly boasted about his current standing.

“The stats don't lie, if they were better looking, they would have won,” exclaimed the third year 3B.

On this 35 degree day in the Twin Cities, spring was definitely in the air, as Minnesota fans were very happy to talk a little baseball.

Check out video of Mauer interacting with members of the media, outside Maynard's, after the event.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 18.