Coming soon for Twins: Morneau back at first base

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 16, 2012 - 1:51 PM

Justin Morneau will return to first base soon, probably sometime during this week's road trip to New York and Tampa Bay, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said following Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Rangers.

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Justin Morneau hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning at Target Field on Thursday.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Justin Morneau will return to first base soon, probably sometime during this week's road trip to New York and Tampa Bay, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said following Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Rangers.

Morneau started the first nine games at designated hitter, with the goal of getting as many at-bats as possible, while being careful not to overtax himself after dealing with concussion symptoms the past two years.

Morneau went 4-for-10 with two doubles in the first series at Baltimore but struggled on the first homestand, going 3-for-24 to drop his average to .206.

His two-run, eighth-inning homer gave the Twins an 8-7 lead in a 10-9 victory over the Angels on Thursday, but in Sunday's 4-3 loss to Texas he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and grounded into a double play.

The Twins had a chance to stretch their 3-1 lead in the sixth inning, but with no outs, runners on first and second and one run already in, Rangers manager Ron Washington replaced Neftali Feliz with Robbie Ross, and the lefthander struck out Morneau and Josh Willingham before getting Chris Parmelee to fly out, ending the inning.

In the ninth inning, former Twins closer Joe Nathan came on for the save and fanned Morneau for the first out.

"[Morneau] will be fine," Gardenhire said. "He's missed a lot of baseball, so he's going to have some hot and cold spells. He's taking his hacks. Sometimes he gets a little anxious at times, but he's working at it. He's a work in progress."

Optimism for Blackburn

One day after removing Nick Blackburn from his outing against the Rangers because of right shoulder stiffness, the Twins were hopeful he won't have to miss his next start, which would come Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

"All indications are that he's going to be OK," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. "But we're certainly going to be cautious. We'll see how he feels [Monday]. His MRI didn't show any irregularities or anything, so that's good."

Blackburn said his right shoulder cramped up, and the MRI eased some concerns. Asked if he thinks he'll be able to start Thursday, Blackburn said yes but added that he wasn't sure what the team had planned. He's scheduled for a bullpen session Tuesday, and if gets postponed or doesn't go well, the Twins would have Anthony Swarzak pitch Thursday.

Hendriks stays in rotation

Liam Hendriks, who missed his first start because of food poisoning, said he was a little tired after throwing 84 pitches in his six innings against the Rangers. The Twins had planned to keep his pitch count in the 80-to-85 range.

Gardenhire said Hendriks definitely will remain in the rotation, especially now that Scott Baker has been lost because of a season-ending elbow injury.

"He mixed it up, just as advertised," Gardenhire said. "He changed speeds and located the ball, used his slow curveball, kept them off it pretty much. He gave us every opportunity to win the ballgame."

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