Thursday, January 19, 2012

Confidence in Morneau could backfire

An interesting interview with Twins General Manager Terry Ryan came out yesterday on the Fox Sports North website. In this piece, Ryan discussed a variety of topics for the Twins as the organization gets ready to head to Fort Myers next month. There were quotes about Joe Mauer's recovery from an injury plagued 2011 and a look at some of the options for the starting rotation but some of the most intriguing quotes were in reference to Justin Morneau.

Last week on this site, I wrote about the three different paths in front of Morneau for next season. In the first part of the "Morneau Chronicles," the focus of the piece was the Twins hoping for the ideal results. Another option for the Twins could be to switch him to being a full-time designated hitter. The final installment of the three part series looked at the possibility of Morneau being pushed towards retirement. In the end, I hoped the Twins would be able to have him split time between first base and designated hitter for the 2012 season with other players taking some time at first base.

In this latest interview with Ryan, the Twins seem to have an interesting strategy for the Morneau situation. Here are a couple of quotes from the FSN article and some thoughts about the Twins plan as they approach spring training.

"I don't even want to talk about a backup plan because right now I'm encouraged with the way he's going about his business."
It is positive to see the Twins having confidence in a player who has not been able to finish a season with the team during the past three years. He will begin swinging a bat this week for the first time since having surgery on his neck and wrist. So until the 30-year old first baseman proves he can't handle baseball activities, the Twins have a right to instill confidence in their former MVP. He has worked with doctors and the training staff to try and fight through some of the nagging concussion related issues. As recently as the end of December, Morneau was still recovering from post-concussion syndrome but he was showing signs of improvement.

"There is no backup plan because we've got a first baseman we're counting on."
Realistically, the Twins have players in place to fill-in at first base if Morneau is unable to play in the field. It is unlikely that this group of players would be able to put up the same production as the healthy Morneau of years past. Mauer could find himself playing first on days when he is not scheduled to be behind the plate. Newly acquired Ryan Doumit has played a handful of games at first base during his career. The Twins used Luke Hughes as a fill-in option at first base with Morneau out at the end of last year. Fans of the team also saw Chris Parmelee show some positive signs during September. The Twins might be saying they don't have a backup plan but the pieces are clearly there if the team needs to make an adjustment.

"I think we're all encouraged that once we get down to spring training, we're going to find out a lot of things."
There will be plenty of questions for the Twins to find answers to when it comes to Morneau at spring training. Will he be able to handle playing first base on a regular basis? Can he regain his offensive prowess after missing significant time in each of the last two seasons? Does the team need to move him to designated hitter in order to protect him from his concussion symptoms? Will it still be dangerous for Morneau to be a standing in the batter's box and running the bases? The list of questions could go on and on...

In the end, it is good that the team and their GM have confidence in the ability of the organization's first baseman to conquer his post-concussion symptoms. There are plenty of fans of the Twins who will be approaching Morneau's situation with a reserved skepticism. Morneau is going to have to prove himself on the field before fans are going to regain confidence in the power-hitting lefty. The start of spring training is a month away and it will be interesting to watch how fast the team's confidence in Morneau might have to switch once the team arrives in Fort Myers.
The 2012 Twins Prospect Handbook is NOW AVAILABLE. This is a great book for every fan of the Twins. There are profiles on over 160 minor league players, top prospect lists from multiple writers, and a variety of featured stories. The Twins had to dig deep into their minor league system last year and it is a great resource to have on hand for reference to these players.


TT said...

I don't think the Twins really have any choice. If Morneau is not healthy, the team is not likely going anywhere unless Parmelee or someone else really surprises them.

The problem with all the talk of Morneau moving to DH is that it does not appear that is a solution. If his concussion symptoms prevent him from playing first, they will also prevent him from running the bases. In other words, its all or nothing. Either he can't play at all or he can play first.

Frankly, the fan's confidence or lack of it is irrelevant. My worry is that he will be healthy enough to play first, but he won't be healthy enough to hit well. But the only way we will know is to watch what happens.

PK said...

It is good to see the confidence expressed in Morneau, but as TT says, the Twins don't have any choice to be other than positive right now. My guess is even before spring games begin the verdict will be in on whether or not he can play first base. It may take considerably longer to find out if he can hit well enough to stay in the lineup past May or June. I'm hoping for the best.