FORT MYERS, Fla. — Minnesota Twins slugger Justin Morneau said he might be used more at designated hitter and less at first base to decrease the chance of a re-occurrence of the concussion problems that prematurely ended his past two seasons.
“Not to get into the medical stuff too much, but (the doctors) said before that if my body gets worn down too much, I’m more vulnerable to having the symptoms reoccur,” Morneau said Monday, after he hit a double off the center-field wall in a 10-4 spring training loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. “The chance of going backwards is when I get worn down. I can have the fogginess and the headaches, and all that stuff can return, if my system gets too worn down. Then I’m in a vulnerable position.”
The Twins have triggered a plan to give offseason acquisition Ryan Doumit more time at first base and left open the possibility of rookie Chris Parmelee breaking camp with the team. First base would remain an option to Joe Mauer on days he is not catching. Doumit was scheduled to be the primary DH when camp opened.
Morneau’s past eight starts in Grapefruit League games have all been as a designated hitter. The 2006 American League MVP has heated up at the plate recently, going 4-for-9 over his past three games with two doubles, two homers and five RBI. Prior to that, he was hitting .091 (3-for-33) with no extra-base hits this spring.
Morneau says he feels good, but he wants to do all he can to reduce the possibility of having any sort of setback.
General Manager Terry Ryan said Morneau could decide that he feels well enough to be a full-time first baseman, or he could decide that the safe move might be to take defense out of the equation.
“I don’t want you to go black and white here,” Ryan said. “If he’s ready to play first base, we will do it. That may happen or may not happen. May not happen sooner than later. May not happen at all, if he’s not feeling right. (We) don’t want to force the issue right now. He’s doing pretty good right now.
“I think you guys know, he’s got a little hop to his step right now, has a smile on his face. I think he feels a big part of this ballclub right now. If we can keep him active I think he’s going to feel enthused about being a part of this thing. He hasn’t had any setbacks per se.”
Morneau has been one of the Twins’ biggest story lines this spring as he battles to overcome his concussion symptoms from the past two reasons, as well as surgeries on his neck, wrist, knee and foot from late last season and over the offseason. When he reported to camp in February, he said he had symptoms as recently as January and, through diet and exercise, had lost 11 pounds.
He appears happy with the results lately as the regular DH, a move that has allowed him to get more at bats and find a groove at the plate.
“People will say, ‘Well, you’re playing the what-if game,’ ” Morneau said. “Well, I’d rather be healthy than sit there and question everything I’m doing.
“It’s one of those things where am I in the clear? Yes; but is there still a possibility in the end that things could go backwards? A very, very small possibility. So I think that’s kind of where the DH thing is based.”