On Sept. 26, 2011, Joe Mauer trudged into the Twins clubhouse with sleepy eyes and a strained voice. Diagnosed with pneumonia two weeks earlier at the Mayo Clinic, the three-time American League batting champion was a shell of himself, still down at least 15 pounds from an early-season viral infection.

Mauer had finished the first year of his eight-year, $184 million contract batting .287 with three homers and 30 RBI in 82 games.

There had been summer-long skepticism from media and fans commenting on talk radio and online message boards about the main issue that had derailed his season, an injury the Twins called "bilateral leg weakness." Was there something more? Pausing several times to cough, Mauer insisted he wasn't suffering from anything more serious.

"The fact is, I have pneumonia," he said. "I'm not over it yet. That's first on my list to take care of. Hopefully I can get strong and get ready for next year."