While first baseman Justin Morneau is a free agent after this season and might choose to wait for the season to end before negotiating a new contract, Twins President David St. Peter and General Manager Terry Ryan have indicted they would talk contract during the season if Morneau’s agent will.
“It depends on the situation. If a player wants to do it or an agent wants to do it, we’ll certainly listen,” Ryan said. “We’re rarely apt to go and approach it, although we did last year with [reliever] Jared Burton. It happens on occasion. I think we did it with Burton last year, I’m not positive. But through the years we’ve always been flexible enough, depending on the guy and the situation, we’d listen or approach the person.”
Ryan was asked if the team is in talks with Morneau.
“No, we are not,” he said. “I think we’ll probably let that play itself out through the course of the year.”
Ryan believes Morneau is performing all right despite a lack of home runs, with only three this season, including a two-run shot in the sixth inning Wednesday, his first since April 28. Going into Wednesday’s game with the White Sox, Morneau was second on the team in batting average (.287) and first in RBI (39).
“He is hitting for average, it’s fine, and his on-base percentage and his RBIs, but at the position it’s understandable that fans would like to see a first baseman hit it over the fence — especially when a guy has the history Morneau does,” Ryan said. “It is ironic because he’s hitting balls in batting practice a long way. He does make adjustments. When he gets two strikes on himself now, it seems like he’s more apt to put a ball in play instead of driving one, which is not all that bad. You don’t mind to see that.”
Ryan looks for Morneau, who in 2007 already had hit 20 home runs by June 18, to eventually start hitting more homers as the summer heats up.
“But you know, we’ll take what we’re getting right now,” Ryan said. “Out of a first baseman, normally he’s the guy who is hitting four or five [in the lineup], you’d like to see [more] home run output.”
And how does Ryan feel about the team’s overall performance so far this season?
“We’re starting to pitch better, and we’re having trouble scoring now,” he said. “We have to get this thing where it comes together all at once, and we should be able to do that at some time here. I think we have some hitters that can produce. If we can keep these guys giving us some innings out of the rotation, we should be OK.”
Ryan said he will take his share of the blame if the Twins don’t start performing better, but the whole organization has to be held accountable.
“We’ll assign blame, and it starts with me,” he said. “We have to do a better job of getting runs across. We get people out there and we just haven’t had that one hit that can make a difference. … It’s stuff like that that gets a little frustrating, but we’ll keep working at it and see if we get it right.”
Asked about his expectations for Twins attendance this season, St. Peter said: “We have some work to do to get to last year. We drew about 2.8 million a year ago, I’m not sure we’re going to get there. But I am very bullish that we’ll surpass 2.5 million, and certainly the team is doing their part, they’re staying in the hunt. We need to get back over that .500 mark.
“As we come into the heart of the summer, obviously it has been well-documented that we don’t have a lot of home games in July, but we have a lot of home games in June. The Yankees come in July 1-4. We expect they’re going to have a couple of their guys back in the lineup, unfortunately, but we have some great opponents coming in. Ultimately we think this baseball team has a chance to surprise a lot of people the rest of the way.”
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