Last year Justin Morneau was having a tremendous season, he was playing like an MVP, and looked like the best hitter in baseball, but his season ended in early July due to a concussion. It has been nearly eight months since Morneau’s season was cut short and he is still not yet ready for spring training. Even though Minnesota was able to stay afloat last year and make it to the playoffs, the Twins just aren’t the same team with Morneau and they will need their former MVP if they want to capture the AL Central once again.
Justin Morneau joined ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis with Reusse and Mackey to talk about whether or not he’s making progress, when he started working out, the changes that the team has made this offseason, and how much trepidation he will have once he finally returns from his injury.
How much progress he is making and how he measures it:
“Just kinda look at what I’m able to do compared to where I was at. I’ve been cleared to do all baseball activities, just haven’t been cleared to play in a game yet. I think that’s more to do with just seeing how the workouts go and seeing how it goes through the day being out there on the field. You work out on your own, you’re working hard, it’s intense and all the rest of it, but when you get out there with the boys running around, the intensity level picks up a little bit and that competition kicks in and I just want to see how my body is going to react to that. We’re not in a rush to be ready for the first spring training game, we’re in a rush to be ready for the first game of the season against Toronto. If I don’t play for the first week or even the first two weeks, all it is is timing and I’ve been around long enough where my swing is what it is, the defense is what it is, and if I’m healthy I feel like I can help this team win. The key is being healthy and not rushing things. There’s no reason to rush things. I think we’re doing pretty good right now and we feel pretty confident that we’re going to be good to go when we need to start.”
When he first started working out again:
“After New year’s. I was working out here and there and kinda testing things and seeing how things go in November in December. Didn’t start doing much until the middle of November. Took some time off after the season and started working out a little bit. After New Years kinda got in there and I was surprised that I was able to get through most of the days. Usually got worn out pretty quick which was to be expected but I was able to do everything and started hitting three weeks ago, started playing catch about a month ago and normally I don’t start playing catch until a couple of weeks before I leave for spring training. I’ve been doing baseball activity and full workouts for a good six weeks and baseball activities for about a month and everything has gone well.”
The changes the team made in the offseason:
“It’s a different look. The bullpen is going to be a little bit different. We’ve got out anchor back at the end there and I’m looking forward to seeing that. We spend a lot of time together down here in the spring. Most guys get here and I’m usually here before seven and almost everybody is here before eight. Long days and long bus rides with where we’re located. Most trips are two hours so you spend a lot of time with the guys and get to know each other quick. By the time it starts we should be a pretty close knit group. It’s always interesting. We usually don’t see this big of a turnover on a team that’s expected to be a playoff team. Usually it’s rebuilding or that kind of thing and we’re definitely not rebuilding. Our goal is to make the playoffs and make a run in the playoffs and take that next step. We brought in some guys, lost some guys, but the guys that are here I think are able to help us win.”
Whether or not he will have some trepidation returning from another concussion:
“I’m human and I understand this after going through this for so long that there are going to be little tests along the way. First time I dive for a ground ball, first time I slide to break up a double play, and there’s going to be stuff along the way, first time I get in there and the adrenaline is really going the first at bat, and all the rest of that stuff. Once we do it a few times and realize everything is okay and it’s going well then you sort of build that confidence. That’s what spring training will be good for is to get through all that stuff without having to think about it and by the time the regular season comes I’m not sitting there going what if, what if and I can just play the game the way I know how. I’ve been through it once before in ‘05 when I got hit in the head by a lefty and had a concussion, went on the DL for two weeks, and came back., getting back into the batter’s box you have the flashbacks of going what happens if he lets it fly, am I going to get out of the way in time? It took a little bit of time to get over that, but you eventually build up the confidence and trust yourself enough that you’re an athlete and you can get out of the way, make those adjustments, and hopefully everything will come out that way and we will be able to get past all of that and when the season starts it will be just about playing baseball, trying to get to the playoffs, and win the World Series.”