Tag:Justin Morneau
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:18 am
 

Morneau doesn't sound positive about his future

Justin Morneau

By C. Trent Rosecrans

It's tough to take tone from transcribed quotes, but reading what Twins first baseman Justin Morneau doesn't take much of a leap to assume he's not all sunshine and puppies in regard to his future.

Morneau hasn't been the same player since suffering a concussion in July of 2010 and even though he said he's been symptom-free for about a month, his meeting with Minnesota reporters on Friday didn't sound like someone very positive about his future.

Here's what he had to say (via La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune) when asked about his concerns about concussions in the future:
"Well, I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with,'' he said. "That’s the reality of the whole thing. I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long. It’s something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out, that’s something that nobody wants to go through.

"Obviously it’s been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff. Obviously it’s crossed my mind and it’s something I’ve had to think about but when that stuff comes into my mind I continue to look for something positive, and look how far I’ve come in the last week or in the last month and just hope it continues to go well.''
Morneau has two years left on the six-year deal he signed before the 2008 season. He will make $14 million this season and next. The 2006 American League MVP played in just 69 games last season, hitting .227/.285/.333 with four home runs.

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:11 pm
 

Spring position battle: American League Central



By C. Trent Rosecrans


Gearing up for spring training, we're headed east -- -but not too far east, just east from west, or in other words, to the Central, starting in the American League and what positional battles will be fought in the American League Central this spring, continuing the spring position battles series.

Chicago White Sox
Closer: Matt Thornton vs. Jesse Crain vs. Addison Reed

With Sergio Santos in Toronto and Chris Sale headed to the rotation, the White Sox are once again looking for a closer. Thornton saved three games last season and Crain one, but both are more or less keeping the seat warm for Reed, the team's top (and perhaps only) prospect. Thornton, an All-Star in 2010, won the closer battle last season before blowing his first four save opportunities to start the season and he was ultimately replaced by Santos. Crain pitched well last season, but it's Reed that has a chance to be special.

Cleveland Indians
Fifth starter: Kevin Slowey vs. David Huff vs. Jeanmar Gomez vs. Zach McAllister

Ubaldo Jimenez is the team's opening-day starter followed by Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin. The fifth spot is probably Slowey's to lose. The 27-year-old right-hander was twice traded this offseason, first to Colorado and then to Cleveland. While he struggled last season (0-8 with a 6.67 ERA in eight starts and 14 games), he's a proven back-of-the-rotation starter with a 39-29 record and 4.66 ERA. He's also familiar with the AL Central. Gomez made 10 starts for the Indians last season, as did Huff, the only lefty of the group. McAllister made four starts and wasn't overly impressive.

Detroit Tigers
Third base: Miguel Cabrera vs. third base

When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder, the stated plan was that Cabrera will move to third, leaving the DH spot for Victor Martinez -- who isn't playing this year. The Tigers, it appears, are trying to keep Cabrera from getting too big to play third in preparation for 2013 when they'll really have a logjam at the position with Fielder, Cabrera, Martinez and Delmon Young. For now, it seems like wishful thinking that Cabrera can play a passable third base. But if he can, it helps the team out -- especially defensively in the outfield with Young not trying to figure out what to do with that that thing on his left hand.

Kansas City Royals
Second base: Johnny Giavotella vs. Chris Getz vs. Yuniesky Betancourt

What you've heard is true -- there's a ton of talent in Kansas City. In fact, the lineup is nearly set, except for second base and center field. Center should be manned by Lorenzo Cain, who doesn't have a realistic competitor for the spot, but second could be a question. Giavotella came up in 2011 to middling results - .247/.273/.376 with two homers and five stolen bases in 187 plate appearances, but he has a chance to take the position if he can play at the level he established in the minors, where he was a .305/.375/.437 hitter since being taken in the second round of the 2008 draft. While just 5-foot-8, he has shown the ability to make contract (striking out no more than 67 times in any of his minor league seasons) and walk nearly as much as he strikes out (192 minor-league walks to 212 strikeouts). He's not the best defender, but he's adequate. Getz is nobody's idea of a long-term answer. He hit .255/.313/.287 last season, but plays good defense. And then there's Betancourt, who was signed not add depth. The former Royals shortstop will not and should not be pressuring light-hitting Alcides Escobar, but he could add some pop to the infield at second.

Minnesota Twins
Disabled list: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau vs. the disabled list

No two players may be as essential to their team's success as Mauer and Morneau. The two made a combined $37 million last season -- more than the entire Royals team. And, by the way, Kansas City finished eight games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central. The Twins just barely avoided being a $100-million, 100-loss team, but it took a 1-0 victory over the Royals on the last season to do it. Mauer played in 82 games, while Morneau played in just 69, with the two combining to hit seven home runs between them. Morneau's never seemed to fully recover from the concussion he suffered in July of 2010 and Mauer's had a variety of injuries, missing games with a leg injury, as well as lower back stiffness, a bruised shoulder, neck stiffness and pneumonia. Both players will play first base and DH some to try to keep them healthy, but questions will continue until either plays a productive 130-game-or-so season.

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Posted on: November 30, 2011 10:55 pm
 

Twins want to decide Morneau's position soon

Justin Morneau

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday said the team is considering moving Justin Morneau from first base to designated hitter -- something that would also allow Joe Mauer to play more at first base in an attempt to keep him fresh.

Morenau, who missed the second half of the 2010 season after suffering a concussion, played in just 69 games in 2011, while still battling the after effects of his concussion. He didn't play after diving for a ball on Aug. 28 and felt similar symptoms as his more serious concussions, despite landing on his shoulder, not his head. That had to scare the Twins, who have Morneau under contract through 2013 with $28 million due to the 30-year-old.

Speaking with ESPN 1500-AM in Minnesota on Wednesday, Gardenhire said the team would likely make a decision on Monreau's position soon.

"One of the things Terry [Ryan] and I talked about is making sure before we get too deep in this thing [is] what we're going to do with Morny," Gardenhire said (via the Star Tribune). "Where he is going to play, if it is DH, if it is first base. Morny has to eventually tell us what's right for him or I'll make the decision for him and we will go from there. If he can't decide and we talk to the doctors and they give me information where I think the best thing for him to do is to DH and protect him as much as possible, then that is what we will do.

"First thing, you talk to Morny and let him do the doctor things and go from there."

Gardenhire said he's been talking to Morneau via text message. He also said the team is making "a mad effort" to re-sign outfielder Michael Cuddyer and hoped to retain Matt Capps as the team's closer.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 1:38 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Minnesota Twins



By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no waivers, no minor- or major-league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. 

For years, the Minnesota Twins were the model of how to build a consistent winner in a small market. From 2001-2010, the Twins appeared in the playoffs six times and recorded just one losing season. But the wheels fell off in 2011, with a mixture of bad fortune and bad pitching. The Twins have two former MVPs in their lineup, but it would be tough to find two former MVPs who did less in 2011 than Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Those two homegrown players were supposed to be cornerstones for the franchise, but their performance last season was more fitting a tombstone. The team's fortunes, for better or worse, will be tied to those two for the next few years.

Lineup

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Michael Cuddyer, 3B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Justin Morneau, DH
5. Torii Hunter, RF
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Valencia, 2B
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

Starting Rotation

1. Matt Garza
2. Nick Blackburn
3. Kevin Slowey
4. Brian Duensing
5. Anthony Swarzak

Bullpen

Closer - Jesse Crain
Set up - LaTroy Hawkins, J.C. Romero, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Grant Balfour, Peter Moylan

Notable Bench Players

A.J. Pierzynski, Ben Revere, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe.

What's Good?

With Ramos and Pierzynski on the roster, there's zero reason for Mauer to get anywhere near catching gear -- unless it's for another commercial. With Mauer freed of pitching duties, he can concentrate on first base and Justin Morneau doesn't have to worry about playing in the field. Even though Morneau is a very good defensive first baseman, keeping him off the field could keep him on the field. Last year he suffered concussion-like symptoms after merely diving for a ball. Limiting his risks for a recurrence of head injuries should be a top priority for the Twins, and the easiest way to do that solves the team's other big problem, getting the most out of their long-term deal with Mauer. While the Twins don't have anyone on this list with a large number of saves on their resume, there are a ton of good relievers.

What's Not?

It's a good thing the team has good relievers, because they're going to need them -- and even more than the seven listed above. The rotation, after Garza, is shaky. That rotation isn't going to get much help from its defense, either. The roster makeup requires several position shuffles, including Cuddyer to third, a position he's played, but is not too keen on playing. The Twins also have to put Nishioka at shortstop. Although he played there some in 2011, the team signed Jamey Carroll to play shortstop every day in 2012 for a reason.

Comparison to real 2011

Well, if you thought it couldn't get much worse in Minnesota than it did in 2011, it may with this lineup and rotation. Minnesota went 63-99 in 2011, and it probably breaks the 100-loss barrier with this squad, but don't expect them to be historically bad, so it'd probably only cost four-to-eight wins in my unscientific research. Either way, it's an ugly summer in Minneapolis.

Up next: Pittsburgh Pirates

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Posted on: November 18, 2011 3:16 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Twins sign catcher Ryan Doumit to 1-year deal

Ryan DoumitBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Twins have signed former Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit to a one-year deal worth $3 million.

Doumit, 30, has played catcher, first base, right field and designated hitter for the Pirates in his seven seasons in Pittsburgh, meaning he provides a valuable insurance policy for the uncertain status of Twins stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Mauer and Morneau combined to play just 151 games in 2011 and hit seven home runs.

Doumit hit .303/.353/.477 with eight home runs and 30 RBI in 236 plate appearances (and 77 games) in 2011, missing 57 games with a non-displaced fracture of his left ankle from May to August. He also suffered a strained oblique in spring training. 

Like Morenau, Doumit suffered from concussion-related injuries in 2010, missing three games in June and then going on the disabled list in July of 2010 because of a concussion.

Doumit made $11.5 million from 2009-2001 with the Pirates, but Pittsburgh turned down a $7.25 million option for 2012. He's a career .271/.334/.442 hitter with 67 homers, including a career-high 15 in 2008 before signing his big contract.

Follow all the free agent moves with the CBSSports.com Free Agent Tracker. 

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 10:31 am
 

New GM Ryan to evaluate Twins medical staff

By Matt Snyder

There are some depressing numbers for the Twins in 2011. How about 63-99, the Twins' record? Yeah, that's bad. Negative 185 (the run differential) is pretty abysmal as well. What about the fact that only two position players appeared in more than 117 games during the season? Or the major-league leading 27 disabled-list stints? Yeah, it's all bad. And new general manager Terry Ryan is going to look into the health aspect.

"That needs to be talked about," Ryan said at his re-introductory press conference at Target Field (MLB.com). "We had a tough year in medical. We had a tough year in a lot of areas. Not only up here, but right through the system. We need to do some tweaking at the very least there. When it comes to communication, there are areas there that need to be addressed, and I plan on doing that. I know (former general manager) Bill (Smith) was in the process of doing that up until last week. He was worried about it, and I'm worried about it."

Ryan also made sure to keep the focus off the players, some of whom -- namely Joe Mauer -- have had their conditioning and toughness questioned by legions of fans.

Twins turnover
"The players can only take advice," Ryan said (MLB.com). "Players take the advice you give them. We not only give them an exam up here in the Twin Cities, but they're also welcome to get a second opinion. I would never put it on the players. It's our responsibility to take control of that, and we will."

The Twins certainly have more issues than health, but it would be idiotic to dismiss the concerns with the training staff. Bad luck is one thing; an entire team being injured for a whole season is quite another. Check out the number of games played from some of the supposed regular offensive players:

Mauer: 82
Justin Morneau: 69
Alexi Casilla: 97
Denard Span: 70
Jason Kubel: 99
Michael Cuddyer: 139

That's far too many games being missed from the bulk of the lineup. No one can dispute that.

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Posted on: September 20, 2011 1:09 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 2:41 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Minnesota Twins

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Minnesota Twins
Record: 59-93, 29.5 games back in AL Central
Manager: Ron Gardenhire
Best hitter: Michael Cuddyer -- .280/.347/.460, 19 HR, 68 RBI, 66 R, 27 2B, 11 SB
Best pitcher: Scott Baker -- 8-6, 3.21 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 120 K, 131 2/3 IP

The 2011 season has to go down as one of the most disappointing in franchise history. The Twins had six division titles in the past decade, including 2009 and 2010. In 2011, they're in danger of 100 losses. And this wasn't because of sweeping losses to free agency or anything like that. In fact, the team coming back in 2011 was very similar to the 2010 AL Central champs. But we all know one major difference: Injuries.

2011 SEASON RECAP

The disastrous 13-3 opening day loss to the Blue Jays ended up being a harbinger of things to come, as the team accustomed to visiting the postseason would never even reach .500 during the 2011 season. By the middle of April, they were five games back and would never get closer. For a stretch in June and July, the Twins appeared to be returning to form. They won 15 of 17 games, but then lost six straight. They then ripped off 12 wins in 16 games to move to within five of first place on July 17. With the trade deadline approaching, it appeared a once-lost season was salvaged and the Twins were reportedly going to be buyers. Instead, they couldn't get close enough to the lead and mostly stayed pat.

And then the losing picked back up, as the Twins were 7-21 in August. In September, they've been downright awful, currently sitting at 2-14 in the month.

The highlights of the season were Francisco Liriano's no-hitter and Jim Thome slugging home runs No. 599 and 600 in the same game. But the Twins' season will be remembered for the injuries and underperformance. Only Michael Cuddyer has really had a good year for the position players. Superstars Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer only combined to play 151 games due to various lingering injuries. Even when they played, both players had the worst offensive seasons of their respective careers. Aside from Cuddyer, only Danny Valencia and Ben Revere have played in at least 100 games (Jason Kubel is sitting at 99). The lack of stability has played out on the field, as only the Mariners have scored fewer runs in the AL. Other than Scott Baker, the starting pitching has been inconsistent at best and awful at worst. And the bullpen ranks dead last in the AL in ERA.

2012 AUDIT

It's easy to blame everything on injuries, but it's pretty evident a healthy Twins team still wouldn't have been able to keep up with the Tigers. Still, just having better fortune with health would drastically improve the product in 2012. Neither Mauer nor Morneau is really old, so one would expect bounce-back seasons from both -- though there's definite concern with Morneau's concussion issues and Mauer's durability behind the plate. Having full seasons from people like Denard Span, Jason Kubel and Alexi Casilla would be a huge boost as well.

Assuming natural progression to the norm from the players who underpermed and relatively better health in 2012, the Twins are still set up quite well. They have a strong farm system (ESPN.com had it ranked seventh before the season and Baseball America ranked it 12th, though Baseball Prospectus had it 15th) and a good core at the big-league level. The one issue that needs fixing from outside the organization is the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen. Still, do not be surprised to see the Twins right back in the thick of the AL Central race next season. They need some tweaks, but not wholesale changes.

FREE AGENTS

Michael Cuddyer, OF
Jason Kubel, OF
Matt Capps, RP
Joe Nathan, RP (team option)
Clay Condrey, RP

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The first thing the Twins need to decide is where Mauer and Morneau fit. It's been reported that Morneau might be forced into mostly being a DH, due to lingering effects from his concussions. From there, the bullpen must be addressed and probably the starting rotation as well. Here are five main things that could help the Twins compete in 2012 with an eye on the future.
  • Move Mauer to first and Morneau to DH to help save their bodies and hope both return to previous form. If neither does, the Twins have serious financial problems.
  • Now that Mauer is at first base, catcher is a gaping hole. There aren't any real good catching prospects in the minors, so a veteran stopgap like Ramon Hernandez (who is a free agent) would make sense.
  • Keep both Kubel and Cuddyer to be the corner outfielders. Make Ben Revere the everyday center fielder and trust in his offensive development. This would free up Denard Span as trade bait for pitching help. The Nationals were rumored to want a new CF back at the trade deadline and Span's name was involved. The Nats have a few live, young arms at the back-end of the bullpen in Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Henry Rodriguez, any of whom would be a great fit between Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan. An alternative to these ideas is leaving Mauer behind the plate, playing Cuddyer at first, keeping Span and hoping to find bullpen help through free agency or minor trades. So pick one avenue.
  • Are they going to give Tsuyoshi Nishioka another shot? They probably need to try. Drastic improvement in his second American season would be a big boost.
  • A transition needs to be made from low-upside veterans in the rotation (Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing) to younger arms like Scott Diamond, Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson at some point. And they've got to hope Liriano and Pavano pitch better.
Of course, if the underperformance from and injuries to so many key players continues, the Twins will be forced into a major rebuild. For now, though, there's enough past evidence to believe that 2011 was just an anomaly for several reasons.

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 12:42 pm
 

Morneau's disappointing season over

By Matt Snyder

Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has been shut down for the season, much like catcher Joe Mauer was last week. Morneau hadn't played since August 28 as some post-concussion symptoms lingered, but he'll also now have a cyst removed from his left knee (Rhett Bollinger via Twitter).

To say this season has been an utter disaster for the Twins would be an understatement. Morneau and Mauer only combined to play 151 games. Heading into Sunday, only three players have even appeared in more than 100 games (Jason Kubel is sitting at 99). With all those injury issues, the fact that the Twins are sitting with their worst winning percentage since the strike-shortened 1995 season isn't all too surprising.

Morneau, 30, finishes the season hitting .227/.285/.333 with four home runs and 30 RBI in just 69 games. This is a four-time All-Star and one-time MVP who also finished second in MVP voting once. So, yeah, Morneau's 2011 season is a microcosm for his Twins' season in that it's a complete disappointment.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com