Morneau confident his play will improve

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 1, 2011 - 11:39 PM

The Twins first baseman is hurting because of a neck injury, but he's overcome injuries and slow starts before.

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Twins first baseman Justin Morneau (33)

Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press

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Justin Morneau is playing despite a neck injury that would sideline most players.

In fact the other day, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire asked the first baseman if he wanted to go on the disabled list, because Gardenhire realizes Morneau is playing in pain and unable to produce as has in the past. But Gardy knew Morneau's answer would be no.

Last July, before Morneau missed the rest of the season because of a concussion, he was hitting .345 with an American League-best .437 on-base percentage and a .618 slugging percentage. Entering Wednesday's game with the Tigers, Morneau was batting .242 with a .291 OBP and a .335 SLG before going 0-for-3 with a walk Wednesday.

Morneau did hit two home runs in Tuesday's 8-7 loss to Detroit, a sign he is feeling better. He said the injury has been bothering him for a while.

"It's not a really good situation for me to be in," Morneau said. "If I can play, I can play. There's no reason to make excuses. If I can't play, then I can't play, then it's an issue. Nobody wants to hear excuses. I'm able to swing.

"I've been able to do it since spring training ... obviously not as well as I'd like to do, but I'm able to go out there. I'm going in every day thinking it's going to be a good day, and hopefully that's all that happens."

Worried about future?

Morneau, a career .284 hitter with 185 homers in his ninth season, was asked if he was concerned about his career.

"Well, hopefully, it's not ruined," he said. "Hopefully, I have a few good years ahead of me yet. Still, it's one of those things to go from where I was at last year to where I'm at, obviously it's kind of frustrating. Nobody is going to feel sorry for me.

"I have to go out there and try to find a way to get it done and come in every day with the belief that it's going to be a good day and go from there, and believe things are going to turn around. I have no reason they're not going to be."

Morneau recalled having a bad start like this in 2005.

"I have done that before and rebounded and turned around and finished the year pretty well, so hopefully that's what happens this year," he said. "I've been through the struggle of '05, [in] which I struggled for the whole year and I was really hard myself the whole year and was really hard on myself every night ... not sleeping, staring at the ceiling trying to figure out what to do and I said, 'I'd never go back to that.'

"I think I learned the most I've learned in any year in the big leagues, and I came back and got off to a slow start in '06, but that year turned around just because of the experience the year before. I've struggled at times before, but I've always believed that it's going to turn around and it's going to end up good.

"Yeah, I've been feeling better; it's just the consistency that's been something that's been a little frustrating for me. I come in one day and the swing feels good, and come in the next day and it doesn't feel the same. That's part of thing that's been frustrating."

Asked about the poor start of the team, Morneau said: "[It's a] nightmare. It has not been a lot of fun. I know that we came into spring training with the expectations of making a playoff run and we haven't given up that dream.

"We've come from behind before. Obviously we've dug ourselves a pretty big hole, but we haven't played a whole lot of division games and we finished all our road trips to the east."

Jottings

The Twins, 17-37 after Wednesday's games, are four games behind the team with the second-worst record in the majors, the Houston Astros (22-34). ... The Twins had not lost eight in a row to the Tigers since 1981. The streak reached nine with Detroit's 4-2 victory Wednesday.

With Ohio State likely to lose several football players when the NCAA takes action on their receiving improper benefits, the Gophers are unfortunate to not play the Buckeyes for the next four years. The Gophers athletic department treasury also likely will be short if the Buckeyes aren't allowed to play in a postseason game, because all conference teams share in the bowl money. The Buckeyes have been big contributors to the pot, being in a lucrative Bowl Championship Series game almost every year.

Former Gophers linebacker Mike Sherels, a volunteer Gophers football assistant, is in charge of alumni relations. ... Posted on three big boards at the entrance of Gophers coach Jerry Kill's office is the name of every football captain from 1882 until 2010.

Every Gopher was given a DVD with a scouting report on opening opponent Southern California, so they can learn a lot about the Trojans before two-a-day practices start in August. ... Former Gophers football players will greet the freshman players when they report to school June 12 with a "Meet the Rookies" night.

Fundraising is slow for the new Gophers baseball stadium. About $5 million has been raised; the total must reach $7 million before construction can start. No more games will be played at condemned Siebert Field. The Gophers will play 36 games at the Metrodome next season.

Gophers baseball coach John Anderson said he believes he could have six of his eight pitchers selected when the major league baseball draft is held Monday, but he doesn't expect any of his 2010 players to be drafted high. ... Anderson also said he loved the job former Gopher Robb Quinlan did for the squad this past season and hopes he returns next season as a volunteer coach. ... Ex-Gophers catcher Kyle Knudson, who was drafted by the Twins and is playing for Class A Beloit, is back in action after briefly being on the disabled list and is hitting .258.

Three Gophers and the men's 4x400 meter relay team have qualified for the NCAA track and field championships, which will be held June 8-11 in Des Moines. The individuals are Brock Spandl in the pole vault, Micah Hegerle in the hammer, Harun Abda in the 800 meters and the 4x400 relay team of Abda, Jacob Capek, Kevin Bradley and John Holton, who ran a time of 3 minutes, 7.82 seconds Saturday in the NCAA West Prelim Meet in Eugene, Ore., the fastest Gophers time in that event since 2006.

The annual Wells Fargo Minnesota Wild Road Tour will take place June 22 and visit Brainerd, Duluth and St. Cloud. The tour will include both current and former Wild players and team broadcasters. Then, on June 23, the sixth annual Wild Summer Bash will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Mall of America.

Recently signed Wild prospect Darcy Kuemper was named the CHL Goaltender of the Year, given annually to the top junior netminder in Canada (OHL, QMJHL and WHL). Previous award winners include NHL All-Stars Carey Price and Cam Ward.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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