Hartman: Ryan says Morneau is making progress

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 13, 2012 - 6:54 AM

The Twins GM said his first baseman isn't 100 percent yet, but expects he'll be close by spring training.

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Twins first baseman Justin Morneau

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An interview recently posted on Major League Baseball's official website with Justin Morneau was, at best, pessimistic about how the Twins first baseman was recovering from his concussion and wrist problems.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan saw the interview and said that "it didn't surprise me, the facts that came out."

However, Ryan is optimistic Morneau will be healthy and ready to go in spring training.

"He's doing OK in my book," Ryan said. "He's been in the ballpark here this past week every morning, and he's working hard. He's on about the right schedule. He'll start to swing a bat here in probably another 10 days to two weeks. I wouldn't get too concerned about exactly what came out of that article. I think he just stated what exactly is going on and the history of it, and he's trying to move forward.

"He's departed for Phoenix but this past week, he was in the ballpark every morning. I've been around him quite a bit [during the workouts]. He's working hard, I've been impressed. He's been in there for about four or five hours a day."

Ryan is convinced Morneau is making progress.

"I'm not saying he's OK. I don't think anybody will be able to make that statement until we get to Fort Myers and put him through the repetitions and the heat and the bus trips and so forth that are going to be an everyday occurrence for him and every player."

And what about the health of star catcher Joe Mauer?

"He's fine," Ryan said. "I don't have any concerns about Mauer. From everybody that I've talked to, he's 100 percent and ready to go."

The Twins lost Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel and except for former Oakland outfielder Josh Willingham, they didn't spend any big money on free agents. There has been criticism from fans and the media about the Twins' questionable offseason moves.

"We very rarely get rave reviews in the winter," Ryan said. "The guys that we sign may not make headlines but more often than not, they're people that fit our system. A lot of times we're looking for a guy that's got some versatility, a lot of times we're looking character, a lot of times we're looking to fill holes.

"I've never talked too much about how things look on paper, you have to go out and play the games. More often than not, we've done a pretty decent job here of putting together a decent roster that can compete."

Ryan considers the Willingham contract a big one.

"We gave Willingham a pretty good, sizeable contract here," Ryan said. "I'm not going to say it's $100 million, but it's not too long ago that we gave Morneau a big contract and we gave Mauer a big contract and we just paid Willingham $21 million for three years. I would say that's a sizeable investment.

"We needed to get that power righthanded bat and he fit the mold. Depending on what the situation is, you go out and you get the people that you think are right. You don't necessarily have to make a big splash to put a good team together."

Coaching moves

Jim Hueber, who has been a coach with the Gophers, Badgers and Vikings, has been named tight ends coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Hueber and Pat Morris were the Vikings' offensive line coaches under Brad Childress.

When Leslie Frazier became head coach, he replaced Hueber and Morris. Hueber was unemployed last year while Morris was offensive line coach for the Bucs. Now Morris is out of a job after the Bucs staff was fired, and Hueber is employed.

Three key Wisconsin coaches also have joined former Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, the new coach at Pitt.

They are Bob Bostad, who developed the great Wisconsin offensive lines and served under former Gophers coach Jim Wacker as a graduate assistant from 1992-1994; Joe Rudolph, who coached the Badgers' tight ends but will be Chryst's quarterbacks and assistant head coach; and linebackers coach Dave Huxtable, who will be the new Pitt defensive coordinator.

Ted Roof -- who was Gophers defensive coordinator in 2008 under Tim Brewster and then spent three seasons with Auburn, including their 2011 national championship year -- left the Tigers last month to become defensive coordinator under George O'Leary at Central Florida. Then, after a month on that job, he accepted the same job at Penn State. Roof and new Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien spent time together coaching at Georgia Tech, and O'Brien was Roof's offensive coordinator when Roof was head coach at Duke from 2003-07.

Everett Withers, another former Gophers coach who was defensive coordinator for Brewster in 2007, has been named co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach on Urban Meyer's new staff at Ohio State.

Jottings

• There had been rumblings that the Chicago Cubs were working on a deal that would have sent former Twins pitcher Matt Garza to Detroit, but new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein denied that rumor. "I think very highly of Matt Garza," Epstein said. "I think he's a top-of-the-rotation guy, and I'm looking forward to him being on the mound for us this season."

• Jon Leuer has been playing significant minutes for the Bucks so far this season and is averaging 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. The former Orono and Wisconsin star got his first pro start against Detroit on Thursday and played a season-high 32 minutes, collecting 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks in a 102-93 victory.

• Former Gophers defenseman Cade Fairchild has been recalled by the St. Louis Blues after posting 17 points and an AHL-leading plus-21 for Peoria. ... Former Gopher David Fischer is fifth among ECHL defensemen in scoring with four goals and 20 assists in 31 games for Florida. ... In the AHL, former Gophers defenseman Aaron Ness has two goals and 12 assists in 37 games for Bridgeport.

• Former Gophers defensive backs coach and Vikings draft pick Kerry Cooks has been named co-defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.

• Paul Carter is playing for the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League and averaging 9.2 points and 5.0 rebounds through six games. The former Gopher finished up his collegiate career with Illinois-Chicago last year. ... Also in the D-League is former Gopher Lawrence Westbrook, who is playing for the Texas Legends and averaging 6.7 points and 14.4 minutes per game over seven games.

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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