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Continued: Hartman: Morneau sees some encouraging signs

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 26, 2012 - 7:07 AM

When Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was asked if hitting two home runs Saturday was his best day since being shut down for the season last September because of concussion-related problems and having knee, foot and wrist surgeries after that as well, he said: "I think that's probably an understatement. It was a good day, positive to build on. I'm pretty happy and [I'm] going to keep working and hopefully get back to swinging the way I expect myself to do."

Morneau said he's swinging the bat a lot more each day and building strength in his wrist.

"It's continuing to get better with increased work and it's continuing to get stronger, which is a good sign," he said.

"The hard work is starting to pay off, the swing is starting to feel better and I'm starting to get back to where I expect myself to be."

Morneau didn't play last season after Aug. 28, when concussion symptoms recurred after he dived for a ground ball. He said he really started to feel stronger a couple of days before a spring training game against the Yankees on Friday, when he hit a double over center fielder Curtis Granderson's head.

"It's always better when you get hits," Morneau said. "I hit a ball hard to center [in the Yankees game]. That felt really good and let me know that the swing is getting pretty close to where I want it to be. Hopefully it will be consistent and where I want it to be to start the year in Baltimore."

Morneau, who said he hasn't had any recent concussion problems, came to camp hoping to be the team's regular first baseman and still would prefer that. But he said he doesn't know yet whether he'll be the team's DH, the regular first baseman or split time at both.

He's willing to do anything to help the team win, and expects manager Ron Gardenhire to make a decision next week on where he'll play.

"I like to consider myself a pretty good first baseman defensively, and I think I have some value over there," Morneau said. "But I think I'm more valuable when I'm in the lineup every day as opposed to taking chances out there and seeing what happens. We haven't made a decision on it."

Morneau talked about his concussion-related problems and the different surgeries he has had. While everything has been fine so far this spring, he said the decision on whether he plays first or at DH is "going to be a decision based on what's best for the team and what's best for myself personally and staying healthy.

"You add in all the other stuff that's gone along with it, the different surgeries and all that stuff, and eventually that starts to wear you down a little bit," he said. "So if there's a chance for me to play more games, then I think we're going to do whatever it takes to make sure it gives me a chance to be in the lineup every day."

Well, one thing is for sure: If Morneau stays well enough to play first base most days and hit like he did before his health problems, the Twins will have a much better chance to win some ballgames.

Big difference

When Corey Brewer was traded to the Knicks on Feb. 22, 2011, the Timberwolves had a record of 13-43.

On Sunday, when Brewer came back as a member of the Denver Nuggets after being with the Knicks and Mavericks, the Wolves posted a 117-100 victory to make their record 24-26.

Sunday's victory over the Nuggets was only the Wolves' second in 19 meetings, including losses in eight previous meetings at Target Center.

"We were a young team a couple of years ago and they're still a young team, but Kevin Love has gotten so much better," said Brewer, who scored seven points Sunday.

Winning has made a difference at the gate. There were hardly any sellouts last year but already nine this year, including Sunday's crowd of 20,023. Wolves President Chris Wright reports that at least three future games will be sellouts.

Jottings

• It's only his fourth season in the NBA, but Love already leads all active players with seven 30-point, 20-rebound games. Tim Duncan of the Spurs and Dwight Howard of the Magic are tied for are second with six.

• With several Wolves players banged up, Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver -- who saw little action before Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea and Michael Beasley were hurt -- played a big part in the victory over Denver, with Ellington scoring a season-high 17 points and Tolliver adding 10. Wolves coach Rick Adelman mentioned how important it is for guys who don't get frequent opportunities to play to come through when their chance comes.

• The injury to Wolves center Nikola Pekovic is a bone spur in his right ankle, an injury more serious than the ankle sprains that benched him earlier this season.

• Former Bloomington Jefferson standout Cole Aldrich continues to play a minor role for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The center and former first-round draft pick is averaging 2.6 points and two rebounds in 7.3 minutes per game. He didn't play in Friday's victory over the Wolves.

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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