Justin Morneau went 3-for-4 in the Twins' 11-4 victory today, but what impressed me was that Morneau, in a meaningless game, ran crazy on the bases, twice trying to advance on fly balls and making a hard take-out slide.
I assumed Morneau was following up his public talk about the importance of the Twins playing hard the rest of the season. He downplayed that aspect, but I believe he was trying to set an example for the Twins' younger players, many of whom have not displayed a lot of baseball intelligence or gamesmanship this season.
``No, it was just an opportunity,'' Morneau said. ``On one of them, I probably shouldn't have run.
``Just trying to play the game. It's hard to be aggressive if you're down five or six runs because you run into an out, you look pretty dumb...
``I was just kind of playing the game. It doesn't matter how many games up or down we are, we've got to keep playing the game the way we're supposed to play, and whether it rubs off on anyone else or not, hopefully it's good.''
Morneau noted that the way Target Field plays could give the Twins an advantage if they study the park.
``I'm not exactly fast,'' he said. ``I don't know if the guys will see that and say, `Oh, he was out by a half-step on that ball, maybe that means I can tag on that ball and make it.' Just because this ballpark plays big doesn't mean we can't learn how to take advantage of that.''
Morneau got thrown out at second on Jason Kubel's fly to deep center. ``Other teams might think that ball is going over his head,'' Morneau said. ``Us playing here a couple of years now, we know it's going to be caught, and you can take advantage and take those extra bases that can make a difference.''
More important, Morneau said he can't remember the last time he had a check-up concerning the concussion he suffered last season, and says he rarely thinks about the concussion anymore.
I asked him if he thinks anything will keep him from having a bounce-back season next year.
``Not that I can think of,'' he said. ``My swing has felt a lot more concisstent the last couple of weeks. It’s jiust trying to find that balance, where you’re not overswinging, all those little things.
``I don't feel like there's any reason. Have a normal offseason, get my rest and start working out and doing what I’m used to do, preparing for spring training, and not having to worry about everything.
``How's it feel to run to first? How's it feel to take 40-50 swings in the cage? It'll just be me playing and enjoying it, like it is now. It feels pretty good right now.''
What does he hope to gain over the last five weeks of the season? ``Confidence,'' he said. ``Feeling like I’m able to run out there every day and able to be myself and being able to play the way I’m used to playing, and having my swing feel the way I think it should feet. It’s not quite there, but it’s a lot better than it was to start the season. And a lot better than it was two or three weeks ago.
``I think the biggest thing in hitting is confidence and feeling that you can stand up there and catch up to any fastball, and still feeling like you can react to a curveball. That's kind of the key to hitting.
``It’s slowly getting there.''