La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Twins postgame: Great stuff from Morneau

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 2, 2012 - 4:58 PM

Twins slugger Justin Morneau on Monday talked about his decision to DH most of the time this season. He has reserved the right to return to first base if he feels up to it. But, as you listen to him talk about his situation, you can tell he's been through a lot of self-reflection about how to proceed with he post-concussion stage of his career.

Fortunately, Morneau knows how to convey his feelings.

Here are some of his thoughts about letting first base go, for awhile. Some of this will appear in tomorrow's dead tree edition:

Morneau on Monday said that he plans to start the season as the Twins' DH to reduce any chance of a recurrence of concussion symptoms that have plagued him since the middle of the 2010 season.

Morneau revealed about a week ago that doctors informed him that 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. "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.

"Getting 600 at-bats anywhere is better than getting only 200. And I’m not saying this is going to guarantee anything but I think the chances are better. 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.”

Morneau last experienced concussion symptoms in January but has since felt great. He's worked out daily in the Florida heat and has made several bus trips for games - especially over the last couple weeks when he sought extra at-bats to work through a slump.

And the extra work has paid off. Morneau, who also had to recover from offseason wrist surgery, was 1-for-3 on Monday to increase his hitting streak to eight games. He's batting .444 during that streak, with four doubles, three homers and 11 RBI.

"The way it's looking, with (Chris) Parmelee making the team as a first baseman, I think it's looking more toward DH than first base,'' Morneau said. ``It 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. 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.''

Morneau said he's spoken to Paul Molitor, David Ortiz, Victor Martinez and Jim Thome about what they do between at-bats to stay sharp, but it's not easy for him to give up playing first base.

“I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I have if I didn’t care about defense,'' he said. "I’ve tried to make myself a good defensive player, and I feel like I can still help; you know Parm’s pretty experienced as a big league player over there, so as far as knowing the players and positioning, I can still help out defensively. And I haven’t completely shut down the idea of playing first base. We have interleague, we go to Milwaukee, we have all that stuff, and to be able to play I’ll need to play defense, so I’m sure between now and then Gardy and I will have a conversation and I’m sure he’s going to want to get me over there instead of just stick me out there, so who knows what it will be in the end?"

He has to watch out for concussion symptoms but he also has to watch out for any injury. He mentioned last season, when he thought he was in the clear but experienced symptoms just from diving after a ball.

And he did have surgeries on his neck, left wrist, left knee and right foot in about a four-month span last year.

“It's a combination of both,'' he said. "I don’t think there’s any doctor that would be comfortable putting me out there if I was at risk. Maybe five 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 that 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.''

 

 

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