PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. - Twins slugger Justin Morneau said Monday he will begin the season as the designated hitter to reduce any chance of a recurrence of concussion symptoms that have plagued him since July 2010.
Morneau revealed about a week ago that, according to his doctors, the chances of a recurrence of concussion symptoms increase when someone is fatigued. Not having to play in the field reduces that risk.
"This is something since last year that was thought about for sure," he said Monday. "I came into spring preparing to play first and tried to be ready to do that. I didn't come in with any goal other than playing first and being able to do that and help us win ballgames. But it didn't work out that way for right now. It's something that didn't come easy and didn't come without a lot of thought.
"I've been hurt a lot the last couple years, and it's been frustrating for me and the fans and my teammates. So I think to help us win ballgames, I have to be on the field, and if this is the way to do it, that's what we'll do for now and see what happens later."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed that Morneau will be the DH, rookie Chris Parmelee will get most of the starts at first and Ryan Doumit will see a lot of action in right field.
"I thought about this ... a whole lot," Gardenhire said.
Morneau said he last experienced concussion symptoms in January but has since felt great. He has worked out daily in the Florida heat and has made several bus trips for games, especially in recent weeks when he sought extra at-bats to work through a slump.
The extra work has paid off. Morneau was 1-for-3 on Monday to increase his hitting streak to eight games. He has hit .444 during the streak with four doubles, three homers and 11 RBI.
With him showing signs of being his old self, he doesn't want to risk adding defense to his duties for now. He last played first base in spring training on March 13.
"[Being the DH] isn't necessarily something that I want to do, but it's better in the long run in terms of being healthy and available to play every day," Morneau said. "That's the biggest thing right now.
"We'll revisit it later in the season and see how everything has recovered, with all the various things I've been through."
He is optimistic about having a good season but, at the same time, cautious. He's both cautious about symptoms returning and cautious about getting hurt. He did have surgeries on his neck, left wrist, left knee and right foot in about a four-month span last year, and he suffered concussion symptoms after diving for a grounder in August, ending his season.
"I don't think there's any doctor that would be comfortable putting me out there if I was at risk," he said. "Maybe 5 percent of it, but most of it is making sure it doesn't happen again and completely get past it. Because last year we thought it was all gone, and a simple play in the field happened and I'm done for the rest of the year in late August. So it doesn't make sense to go out there and every time I dive or something questionable happens, you have to get through that whole thing.
"I know it would drive Gardy crazy and me crazy. I want to be out there free and be able to dive for balls and make plays I need to make. So if I'm not able to do that right away and I don't have the confidence that I'll be able to do that, then it's probably the best to [be the DH] right now and see what happens down the road. I feel relatively young in this game so I don't plan on DHing for the rest of my career. I want to get back to playing first. Hopefully, this is just the first step in that process."