Morneau will be in Opening Day lineup; Gardenhire gives plan for Nathan

  • Blog Post by: Phil Miller
  • March 31, 2011 - 12:21 PM

TORONTO -- Justin Morneau will be in the Twins lineup, playing first base and batting cleanup, when they open their season on Friday night against the Blue Jays, Manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed Thursday.

Gardenhire said he spoke to Morneau on Wednesday about playing a few days, seeing how he's doing and giving him a break "here and there early in the season."

Morneau hasn't played in a regular season game since July 7, when he suffered a concussion here in Toronto.

"I sat him down in my office, and I said, 'Are you ready to do this?' And he said, he’s ready to do it," Gardenhire said, during a conference call with reporters.

Gardenhire has spoken to Joe Nathan and Matt Capps about the closer's role. Nathan, who missed last year recovering from elbow surgery, will be the closer again, but Capps will be right there to fill in when needed, perhaps quicker than has been assumed.

"We know Joe’s not going to be able to go out there three, four days in a row, or maybe even two," Gardenhire said. "We’re going to try to protect him early in the season. We've got two pretty good ones there."

Gardenhire also hinted that Kevin Slowey will be used in a set-up role, along with Jose Mijares, to get the ball to Capps and Nathan.

"Slowey’s actually been throwing the ball harder out of the bullpen," Gardenhire said. "His innings have been really quick. He goes and pumps it in there. He’s ahead in the count, and those are the kind of guys you want coming out of the bullpen."

Here is the lineup Gardenhire plans to use Friday:

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Delmon Young, LF
6. Jason Kubel, DH
7. Michael Cuddyer, RF
8. Danny Valencia, 3B
9. Alexi Casilla, SS

Pitching: Carl Pavano

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