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Morneau rethinking long-term options

  • Article by: Joe Christensen
  • Star Tribune
  • September 16, 2007 - 10:29 PM

Justin Morneau entered the offseason last year hoping he could reach a long-term contract agreement with the Twins.

After seeing how they've operated the past 12 months, he's less optimistic.

"I'm still open to it, if it makes sense," Morneau said before Sunday's 6-4 loss to Detroit. "But who knows? If we don't sign Torii [Hunter] back, and it doesn't look like Johan [Santana] is coming back -- obviously, I want to be here, but it's a question of how much is in the budget."

Morneau cited Jacque Jones and Corey Koskie as other recent players the Twins lost through free agency.

"[Brad] Radke is one of the only guys who stayed," he said.

Morneau, 26, isn't eligible for free agency until after 2010.

"I'm going to be here through 2010 no matter what," he said.

The question is, how much will that cost the Twins?

Morneau's salary jumped from $385,000 to $4.5 million this year, because he was arbitration-eligible for the first time.

The Twins signed Joe Mauer to a four-year, $33 million deal in February, but their long-term discussions with Morneau and Michael Cuddyer were fruitless.

Morneau hit .321 with 34 homers and 130 RBI last year, winning Most Valuable Player honors. This year, he is batting .277 with 30 homers and 107 RBI.

"I think after how I did [in 2005], they were waiting for me to prove I could do it again," he said. "I would love to do a five- or six-year deal that goes until I'm 33 or 34. So, do I want it to happen? Yeah. But I don't want to get my hopes up."

Baker steadies himself

The Twins had Nick Blackburn warming up in the third inning Sunday, as Detroit took a 4-0 lead, but Scott Baker made it through the seventh.

The Tigers scored two runs off Pat Neshek in the eighth, stretching their lead to 6-2.

Overall, it was another positive step for Baker, because of the way he overcame a shaky start.

The home run that Curtis Granderson hit to start the game was the first homer Baker had allowed in 30 1/3 innings. Baker also made two poor defensive plays in the second inning, but didn't let the Tigers bury him.

Manager Ron Gardenhire has said that only Santana is guaranteed a spot in next year's rotation, with Baker and the others needing to prove themselves in spring training.

"I personally wouldn't have it any other way," Baker said. "I know if I had a position just handed to me, I might not be as good as I possibly could be. If I'm having to compete for a position, I know it's just going to make me better."

Bye-bye derby

Morneau said he has participated in his last Home Run Derby. He thinks this year's contest affected his swing, as he had 24 homers before the All-Star break compared with six in the second half.

"I don't want to make it sound like an excuse," he said. "I just haven't felt the same since then."

Gardenhire, who pitched to Morneau in the Derby, said: "That's fine with me. I was not a big proponent of it anyway."

Silva cleared for Tuesday

Carlos Silva received the go-ahead to make Tuesday's start against Texas, which will give him three more starts before season's end.

Silva left Wednesday's start at Kansas City after two innings because of a strained right groin.

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune.com

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