It must be spring: Morneau's on the field with his tee

With the weather improving during recent days — especially on Friday — many Twins players have been out on the field for early work.

 

With the weather improving during recent days — especially on Friday — many Twins players have been out on the field for early work. So has Justin Morneau and his trusty hitting tee.

The Twins first baseman, in a 2-for-20 skid heading into Friday’s game against the Rangers, brought a tee out to the batting cage and placed it on home plate. Hitting coach Tom Brunansky placed balls on the tee, and Morneau took his cuts.

“Just to see how the ball is coming off of the bat,” Morneau said. “You can be fooled in the cage sometimes. The only ball you hit in the cage that you know is coming off true is right back up the middle. If you’re on the field and you’re hitting the ball the other way or pulling it you can tell whether it’s got hook spin or if you are popping it up.”

Morneau has been using the tee drill since early in his professional career, when the Twins introduced it during instructional league one offseason. The drill teaches the hitter to focus on making contact with the bottom half of the baseball, which creates backspin and carry.

Michael Cuddyer did it the year before he hit 30 homers at Double-A [2001],” Morneau said. “Next year, everyone was doing it.”

Morneau has been unable to bring the tee out on to the field until this week, as he tries to find a way to get locked in at the plate.

“Morny always liked early work and extra work,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “The last couple of years have been hard on him because of the injuries. His body is healthy, that’s why he’s able to get out and work on things.”

Nothing to do

Outfielder Darin Mastroianni, on the 15-day disabled list because of a stress reaction in his left ankle, walks through the Twins clubhouse with a bat in his hands, despite wearing a protective boot over his injury.

“I’m trying to find something to do,” he said. “I’m going nuts.”

Mastroianni must wear the boot for at least another few days before he can be cleared to begin a running program. He will likely get it checked on Wednesday. After a few workouts at Target Field, Mastroianni will head to Fort Myers, Fla., for a rehabilitation assignment.

The Little Hammer?

Infielder Eduardo Escobar wasn’t known for his bat when he came over with Pedro Hernandez from the White Sox in exchange for Francisco Liriano last July. But Escobar is 12-for-25 (.480) as a spot starter, leading to questions about getting him more at-bats.

“I think I’ve got him hitting .400,” Gardenhire said. “I think I’m managing the hell out of him.”

Actually, Escobar is expected to be in the lineup on Saturday against Rangers lefthander Derek Holland. Gardenhire especially likes Escobar’s righthanded swing.

Etc.

• With a three-run, opposite-field home run on Friday for Class A Fort Myers, Twins third base prospect Miguel Sano took over the minor league lead in home runs with nine.

• Righthander Cole De Vries (forearm) threw two innings in extended spring training on Friday with no problems. “He threw 26 pitches down there. Did well,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “So we will progress forward.” De Vries will be stretched out some before he’s sent out on an official minor league rehabilitation assignment.

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