After concussions, Morneau being realistic

The Twins slugger is healthy now but is worried that continued concussion problems could end his career.

FORT MYERS, FLA.

Twins first first baseman Justin Morneau joined his teammates for the first full-squad workout of spring training Friday. That could be viewed as encouraging. But Morneau provided reasons for concern.

In a 15-minute interview before taking the field, Morneau said he's worried about his career ending if he continues to have concussion symptoms that have plagued him since the middle of the 2010 season after he took a knee to his head as he slid into second base in Toronto.

"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.''

Morneau went through fielding drills and took batting practice. He sprayed line drives around Hammond Stadium against coaches' pitching. When a Twins pitcher took the mound, Morneau didn't swing at a single offering, opting to track the ball out of the pitcher's hand to the catcher, which hitters do sometimes.

After the workout, Morneau only said it went "good'' before leaving the clubhouse.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he considers Morneau to be his first baseman until he's told otherwise.

"If people are getting excited and worried about him being honest, then that's too bad,'' Gardenhire said. "He should have concerns. Everybody should when you're talking about things like that because it's the unknown. But I think he's fine; from everything we've seen he's doing good. He had a good day today, and we just go from there."

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said that there are no restrictions on what Morneau can or can't do. He will need to be cleared by Major League Baseball in order to play in spring training games, which the Twins don't feel will be a problem.

Morneau, who also had surgery on his neck (pinched nerve), left wrist (tendon stabilization), right knee (cyst removal) and left foot (bone spurs) this offseason, said he changed his diet and is down to 222 pounds, 11 pounds under last year's listed playing weight. He arrived in Fort Myers on Sunday from Scottsdale, Ariz., to give himself a few days to adjust to the time zone change.

He was optimistic at times, talking about how expects to have a good season. At other times, he sounded cautious as he talked of being careful during his step-by-step progression to Opening Day. He said he hasn't dealt with concussion symptoms since January.

"I've been able to do all the workouts and stuff and been able to get my rest and there's still stuff I can do that will irritate me so I just avoid it,'' he said. "I know if I do too much there's a chance that something is going to happen, and I try not to get to that point.

"Everything has been pretty good since January, I'd say. 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 a while.''

Catcher Joe Mauer was very pleased to see Morneau out on the field Friday and wants him to continue to take his time with his comeback.

"I think everybody in the state of Minnesota cares about him being on the field,'' Mauer said. "He's one of my best friends and I care about him after he's done playing. I want him to be healthy and out there doing what he loves. I hope he can have a long career and look back at this as a little speed bump and have a lot of years ahead of him.''

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