Joe Mauer finished a distant second to Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera in batting in the American League this season. Next season, Mauer will be in a better position to challenge Cabrera for the batting title.

That position will be first base.

The Twins and Mauer announced this week that Mauer has given up catching and will become a full-time first baseman, replacing the departed Justin Morneau.

Mauer is making the move to avoid the potentially debilitating injuries of catching and to stay in the lineup. He missed the last several weeks of this season because of a concussion, which he suffered when a foul tip crashed into the top of his catching helmet with such force that the ball carried over the backstop.

Given the rigors of catching, the move shouldn’t just make Mauer more durable — it should make him an even better hitter. As Mauer acknowledged to reporters when his switch to first was announced: “I think I’m going to be a lot more healthy. There’s been many a time I went up to the plate (after) foul tips off my shoulders and legs where I couldn’t feel my hands.”