While first baseman Justin Morneau is a free agent after this season and might choose to wait for the season to end before negotiating a new contract, Twins President David St. Peter and General Manager Terry Ryan have indicted they would talk contract during the season if Morneau’s agent will.
“It depends on the situation. If a player wants to do it or an agent wants to do it, we’ll certainly listen,” Ryan said. “We’re rarely apt to go and approach it, although we did last year with [reliever] Jared Burton. It happens on occasion. I think we did it with Burton last year, I’m not positive. But through the years we’ve always been flexible enough, depending on the guy and the situation, we’d listen or approach the person.”
Ryan was asked if the team is in talks with Morneau.
“No, we are not,” he said. “I think we’ll probably let that play itself out through the course of the year.”
Ryan believes Morneau is performing all right despite a lack of home runs, with only three this season, including a two-run shot in the sixth inning Wednesday, his first since April 28. Going into Wednesday’s game with the White Sox, Morneau was second on the team in batting average (.287) and first in RBI (39).
“He is hitting for average, it’s fine, and his on-base percentage and his RBIs, but at the position it’s understandable that fans would like to see a first baseman hit it over the fence — especially when a guy has the history Morneau does,” Ryan said. “It is ironic because he’s hitting balls in batting practice a long way. He does make adjustments. When he gets two strikes on himself now, it seems like he’s more apt to put a ball in play instead of driving one, which is not all that bad. You don’t mind to see that.”
Ryan looks for Morneau, who in 2007 already had hit 20 home runs by June 18, to eventually start hitting more homers as the summer heats up.
“But you know, we’ll take what we’re getting right now,” Ryan said. “Out of a first baseman, normally he’s the guy who is hitting four or five [in the lineup], you’d like to see [more] home run output.”
And how does Ryan feel about the team’s overall performance so far this season?
“We’re starting to pitch better, and we’re having trouble scoring now,” he said. “We have to get this thing where it comes together all at once, and we should be able to do that at some time here. I think we have some hitters that can produce. If we can keep these guys giving us some innings out of the rotation, we should be OK.”
Ryan said he will take his share of the blame if the Twins don’t start performing better, but the whole organization has to be held accountable.
“We’ll assign blame, and it starts with me,” he said. “We have to do a better job of getting runs across. We get people out there and we just haven’t had that one hit that can make a difference. … It’s stuff like that that gets a little frustrating, but we’ll keep working at it and see if we get it right.”
Asked about his expectations for Twins attendance this season, St. Peter said: “We have some work to do to get to last year. We drew about 2.8 million a year ago, I’m not sure we’re going to get there. But I am very bullish that we’ll surpass 2.5 million, and certainly the team is doing their part, they’re staying in the hunt. We need to get back over that .500 mark.
“As we come into the heart of the summer, obviously it has been well-documented that we don’t have a lot of home games in July, but we have a lot of home games in June. The Yankees come in July 1-4. We expect they’re going to have a couple of their guys back in the lineup, unfortunately, but we have some great opponents coming in. Ultimately we think this baseball team has a chance to surprise a lot of people the rest of the way.”
• Vikings receivers coach George Stewart was asked to compare former Viking Percy Harvin and first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson: “They are two different football players at this point. It’s too early to tell right now. Cordarrelle is a 6-4 athlete, Percy was a 5-10 athlete, but they are two different players from an athletic standpoint. But both are good players. Percy was a good player, a great player, for us. Hopefully Cordarrelle will be that same type of player for us.”
• If verbal commitments mean anything, the Gophers football program lost a center this week in J.C. Hassenauer of East Ridge High School in Woodbury, who committed to Alabama, and they gained a center in Connor Mayes of Van Alstyne, Texas, whose young brother, Alex, will be a Gophers freshman offensive lineman this year. It’ll be interesting to see which recruit turns out to be more productive in college. Some rating services rank Hassenauer as the best recruit in Minnesota for 2014, and Connor Mayes is rated as high as the fifth-best center in the country.
• Friends of Ron Jirsa — a longtime assistant to former Gophers men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith, who is now at Texas Tech — are reporting he is retiring.
• The Gophers football team is looking to add speed to its roster, and there’s no better evidence of that than at the U.S. Track and Field Championships this week at Drake University in Des Moines. Gophers running back recruit Berkley Edwards, who won Michigan state titles in the 100 and 200 meters for Chelsea High School, will compete in the 100 against Deron Thompson, a Kansas all-state running back who has been offered a scholarship by the Gophers. Thompson will enter his senior season at Wichita Northwest this fall and also has been recruited by schools such as Kansas State, Colorado State and Army. He ran a time of 10.68 seconds in the 100 meters this year.
• De La Salle senior-to-be forward Reid Travis was named to the All-Star team at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, and 247sports.com had a nice write-up about his performance: “A rugged interior player with some bounce to his game, Travis was one of the top scorer/rebounders in the camp, averaging 13 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The four-star prospect will be a consistent and productive post player at the college level.” The 6-8, 240-pound Travis will next head to the Big Man Skills Academy, which features workouts with NBA stars Amare Stoudemire and Anthony Davis, and brings in the top 15 to 20 high school big men in the nation on June 24-26 in Union, N.J.
• Guard Rashad Vaughn, a standout guard in the Class of 2014, is expected to visit Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., soon as he decides on which school to play at after leaving Cooper. If Vaughn were to attend Findlay Prep, he would team up with Gavin Schilling, who was recruited hard by the Gophers but ended up signing with Michigan State.
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