Hartman: Free agent Morneau will look for a winner

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2013 - 6:52 AM

The former Twin got into the playoffs after his trade to Pittsburgh and would like to sign with a similar team.

Justin Morneau, traded by the Twins to the Pittsburgh Pirates in September, said it was fun to play in his first playoff game since 2006. The first baseman, who hit .267 in 31 games for the Pirates with five doubles, no home runs and three RBI, is now a free agent.

Asked if he would like to come back and play with the Twins, Morneau said it’s something he would definitely consider.

“My options are all open,” he said. “I’ve got 30 options. Obviously some of them are less of a chance than others, but I’m open to anything right now.

“Obviously nothing can be done until five days after the World Series. I can only talk to Pittsburgh and after that it’s open for everybody. I enjoyed my time there and I enjoyed my time in Minnesota. But we’ll see what the best situation is for my family and myself.”

Morneau said a chance to win is probably going to be the first thing on his list.

“We’ll see what the best fit is … for myself and the team,” said the 2006 American League MVP. “Obviously you can’t predict the future, you say, ‘This team looks like they’re going to be good,’ but there’s nothing guaranteed for that.

“But as a player, all you can ask for at this point is a chance to win and somewhere that you’re going to go and have fun. There’s nothing to say that couldn’t happen in Minnesota or someone else. I’m not too sure. Obviously that’s not really the answer anyone was looking for, but I’m open right now and looking at the options and we’ll see.”

Morneau, who missed a lot of games during his final four years with the Twins because of various injuries, says his health is great now.

“This is the best I’ve felt and I think the most games I’ve played [158 between the Twins and Pirates] since ’08,” he said. “I played 163 games in ’08 and then have been pretty banged up after that. This year I played in the World Baseball Classic, so really I’ve been playing full, intense games since the start of March and finished the year feeling pretty good. I’m excited about being able to work out this offseason and not spend half the winter rehabbing on something. I think going into this winter I’m as excited as I’ve been in the last four or five years.”

And what does Morneau think of the Twins’ decision to trade him, now that the season is over?

“It was different,” he said. “It was obviously sad leaving Minnesota, but it’s an opportunity that you ask for as an athlete and as a baseball player, especially in baseball. In hockey and football and basketball, I think about half of the teams make the playoffs. It’s a lot harder to make the playoffs in baseball and when you get that opportunity, it’s so enjoyable and so fun and so intense. It is something you have to be happy about. [The trade] was tough. A lot of long relationships here.”

Unless there isn’t a market for Morneau, chances are he won’t be back with the Twins next season because winning, like he said, is his top priority when it comes to signing with a club. And right now, it doesn’t appear the Twins will be in that position.

Kill making progress

Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague talked on the phone to football coach Jerry Kill on Tuesday morning. Kill said he was making progress working with doctors at a renowned epilepsy clinic in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“He seems to be in great spirits and working hard with them to evaluate this thing deeper … and it takes real time to do that,” Teague said. “We feel good about that and we’re looking forward to having him back soon.”

But it would be a surprise if Kill were on the sidelines for the game at Northwestern on Saturday.

Freeman gets test

Josh Freeman is going to get his chance to show he is a better quarterback than Christian Ponder when he starts the Vikings’ lone “Monday Night Football” game this season against the New York Giants next week. But if you look at the stats of the two quarterbacks last season, they were pretty even.

With Ponder at quarterback, the Vikings finished 10-6 in the 2012 regular season and made the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Freeman under center, finished 7-9 and didn’t make the playoffs.

They have also both started 19 games over the past two seasons and in that time Freeman has thrown for 4,636 yards, completing 349 of 652 passes (53.5 percent) with 29 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Ponder has thrown for 3,626 yards, completing 359 of 583 passes (61.6 percent) with 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

While Ponder has thrown for 1,010 fewer yards and nine fewer touchdowns, he was about as effective a quarterback as Freeman, posting a 78.6 quarterback rating to Freeman’s 78.4.

One thing to remember: If the Vikings defense would have stopped the Bears in Week 2 and the Browns in Week 3 from scoring with under a minute left in each game, Ponder would still be the starting quarterback.

Jottings

• Headline in the New York Post: “Monday night misery: Giants-Vikings combine for 1-10.” … ESPN owned the rights to the Giants-Vikings game and WCCO bought the local rights to carry the game. … One reason the Giants are 0-6 is they have 23 turnovers in six games, compared to 22 all last season. … The Giants are 24th in total defense (391.3 yards allowed per game) and the Vikings are 31st (418). However, four of the Giants’ six games have been on the road.

• One surprising thing about the Vikings’ loss to the Panthers on Sunday was that Joe Webb, the former quarterback now lining up at wide receiver, saw more snaps than first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson.

• The Gophers men’s basketball team hosted alumni players at a scrimmage last week. Present was DeLaSalle recruit Reid Travis with his entire family. The fact that Gophers assistant coach Ben Johnson was a former DeLaSalle star might help the Gophers in recruiting Travis.

• St. Louis Park native and great New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently won the Senior Club Championship at Cypress Point Golf Club in Pebble Beach, Calif.

• Former Vikings coach Brad Childress is back working with Andy Reid as a spread game analyst and has helped the Kansas City Chiefs get off to a 6-0 start. They are one of only two unbeaten teams left in the NFL, along with the Broncos.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM 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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