Morneau finds his swing on career home run No. 206

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 28, 2013 - 11:37 PM
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Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was greeted by Josh Willingham after both scored on Morneau’s sixth-inning homer off Texas starter Alexi Ogando, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead Sunday.

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS, Star Tribune

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Justin Morneau’s recent outdoor work paid off Sunday when he launched a two-run homer in the sixth inning against Texas, nearly clearing the section behind the overhang in right field.

It was only Morneau’s second homer of the season, which might have been part of the reason he hit the field for early work as soon as weather permitted.

“It’s been nice to be able to get outside side and just do some extra stuff,” he said. “For me to find my swing is … to swing.”

Texas’ Alexi Ogando had held the Twins to one run when Josh Willingham drew a two-out walk before Morneau jumped on a first-pitch breaking ball.

“It was good to see him put a ball in the seats,” catcher Joe Mauer said after the 5-0 victory.

Morneau’s only other home run came April 13, a solo shot that broke up Mets righthander Matt Harvey’s no-hit bid in the seventh inning. The one he hit Sunday was the 206th of his career, one behind Kirby Puckett for fifth on the Twins’ all-time list.

Ejection No. 63

Ron Gardenhire was ejected for arguing in the seventh inning. And he had to work for it.

Eduardo Escobar attempted to bunt Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks over. His bunt was fielded by Rangers pitcher Joe Ortiz, who threw to third to force Arcia on a close play. Both Arcia and third base coach Joe Vavra objected to umpire Alfonso Marquez until Gardenhire ran out to join the discussion.

The Twins manager had a heated exchange with Marquez before turning to the dugout. Marquez said something as Gardenhire walked away, which was enough for him to turn back, make a brief comment and get thrown out.

“I was leaving the field and he turned and said something else to me,” Gardenhire said, “and I turned back, which was not a good idea.”

It was his first ejection of the season and the 63rd of his career. It’s the second time he has been tossed by Marquez, whose call, on replay, appeared to be correct.

Harden backs off

Righthander Rich Harden, on a long comeback trail following shoulder surgery last year, had to be shut down last week after experiencing soreness. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said Harden is better and is expected to return to mound this week.

Harden, signed to a minor league free-agent contract over the offseason, had been throwing live batting practice.

“That’s not unexpected, but we were doing well there for a while and he never had any setbacks and now he came up a little sore in his shoulder,” Ryan said. “So we backed down.

“It’s not unusual for a guy who is coming off of what he’s coming off of to feel a little sore. We aren’t going to push him.”

Both the Twins and Harden understood that his recovery was going to be a long process.

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