Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau during batting practice as he made his first appearance to Spring training at Hammond Stadium, Friday, February 24, 2012.

Elizabeth Flores, Dml - Star Tribune

Morneau optimistic - and realistic - as he returns from concussions

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN and LA VELLE E. NEAL III
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • February 24, 2012 - 5:56 PM

Justin Morneau met with the media on Friday morning and said he intends to go through all the workouts as he tries to distance himself from his concussion issues of the last two seasons. But talking about his health, he said: "There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long."

Morneau said he's been symptom-free since January. He's down to 222 pounds after changing his diet in an attempt to fight off the nagging injuries to his neck, wrist, knee and foot last season.

He plans to work out every day, and hopes he's past the concussion problems.

"Well, I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with,'' he said. "That’s the reality of the whole thing. I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long It’s something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out, that’s something that nobody wants to go through .

"Obviously it’s been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff. Obviously it’s crossed my mind and it’s something I’ve had to think about but when that stuff comes into my mind I continue to look for something positive, and look how far I’ve come in the last week or in the last month and just hope it continues to go well.''

The 30-year-old former AL MVP has missed 174 games the last two seasons, mostly because of the concussion he suffered in July 2010 at Toronto, when he slid into a Toronto infielder's knee while trying to break up a double play at second base.

In 81 games in 2010 -- exactly a half-season -- Morneau batted .345 with 18 home runs and was seen as a candidate for another MVP award. But last season, he played only 69 games and batted .227 with four home runs.

"Everything has been pretty good since January, I'd say," Morneau said. "Somewhere in there. I don't know. It’s hard to tell. There’s times where I won't feel that good and wake up the next day and feel fine, just knowing it may have been a little extra fatigue or I did too much that day or whatever it is. I can't really remember the last time that was. So it has been good for awhile.''

He's also had surgeries on his neck and wrist, but says those injuries shouldn't be an issue going forward.

"The only thing right now that I’m worrying about coming back or bothering me as we go along is the concussion stuff.,'' Morneau said. "That’s something that’s just so unknown. There’s people that have the post-concussion and deal with it the rest of their lives. It’s one of those things that I don’t know, I can’t predict the future.

"All that other stuff, the foot, the knee, the wrist, I don’t see that limiting me at all going forward.

"It’s just sort of making sure I don’t do too much, be too excited that I’m out there with the guys running around and playing, making sure I don’t go 100 miles an hour the first couple days. I need to still realize that April 6 is the goal, and that’s what I want to be ready for. By doing too much early, it can maybe go backwards. And by trying to pace myself a little bit and be ready for when I need to be ready for, hopefully it’ll continue to go well.'' 

Asked if there are symptoms he can play through, Morneau said:  "It's not usually during (a workout). Usually I'm able to get through the workout when I sit down, the adrenaline stops and I just sort of take a step back and just sit there and go, `Oh, maybe I did a little too much today.' 

"So if there's symptoms there, if there's anything I've learned, there's nothing that's worth risking it for. If there's something there and it happens again, then I'm even further back than I was. We're not going to start at 85-90 percent with that. It's not going to be something we're going to take a chance with. Right now. I don't feel like that is going to be the case.

"I can't tell you how I'm going to feel tomorrow. I can't tell you how I'm going to feel a week from now. It's one of those things where you go through it and hope everything continues to go well and go from there.''
Morneau did express optimism several times during the interview. But his tone and cautiousness, and the fact that he's willing to discuss the possible end of his career all point to this being a give-it-one-last-try kind of spring.
"If something goes wrong or if something isn't right it is not because I'm prepared or didn't put the work in," Morneau said. "The excitement is there."


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