As of today there was no sign of former MVP Justin Morneau at the Twins complex. Without Justin Morneau playing like he did between 2006 and 2009 the Minnesota Twins have no chance. None, nada, zippo, sure Joe Mauer can come back but without the play at first base and the power that Justin Morneau generates when healthy, Twins fans might as well prepare for a long season. Here is my take on what I see happening right now and keep in mind that I have nothing to base my opinion on here except what I see and hear taking place in Fort Myers right now. I have no inside information, I have heard no rumors, nothing, just my gut feel speaking here. I hope I am wrong and I know I am a “glass half-empty kind of guy” but it sure does not look good to me.
- Let’s start with what I think are facts we do know and can all agree on. Justin has had a habit when he was healthy of being an early training camp arrival earlier in his career but with his recent string of injuries starting in 2010, that has not been the case.
- The Twins have stated that Morneau is making good progress but has not been cleared by MLB to resume baseball activities, something that team GM Terry Ryan says will be rectified soon.
- At no point during this past off-season have I heard Morneau say in any interview that he is ready to play in 2012, all I have heard from him is that he is feeling better than he did last spring, that he feels he is making progress and that he is working hard to prepare for 2012.
I think that the Twins are between a rock and a hard spot, Morneau keeps telling them he hopes to be ready to play so the team does not want to display a lack of faith in Justin and possibly also waste salary dollars signing a free agent first baseman if Morneau is indeed ready to go. With season ticket renewal already down due to the teams bad play in 2011, the Twins surely do not want to make a public statement before their 2012 season tickets even go on sale that Justin Morneau will not be the Twins starting first baseman on opening day. If Morneau was indeed healthy, he would have been in Fort Myers a week ago or more, taking part in early drills with his teammates after a disastrous 63-99 season in 2011. A healthy player coming off a serious injury like Morneau is, wants his teammates and his fans to know he is back and 100% healthy.
We will all know a lot more about Justin Morneau’s real status over the next 7-10 days when we see how Morneau performs during spring drills and if he plays in the early exhibition games. My best guess is that Morneau is not ready to play and will not be in the near future and will start the 2012 season on the DL. I only hope we have not seen Morneau’s last big league ball game, but that is a totally different story. I think the Twins will first check out former Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Steve Pearce to see if he can handle the job since he is a natural first baseman. Sure the Twins could try to play Ryan Doumit there but he has no experience to speak of and Gardy has already christened him as the season opening DH. If Pearce can’t do the job than the Twins basically have no choice but to hand the job over to Chris Parmelee who they would dearly love to get more AAA time in Rochester. Luke Hughes is a possibility too but he hurt his shoulder in winter ball in Australia and is not doing any serous work in camp so far. Reports have it that Hughes had a cortisone shot on Wednesday but he still will not be able to workout until this week-end at the earliest so he starts out behind the eight-ball himself. The Twins also have 27 year-old Aaron Bates who has 5 games of major league experience but there is a reason why at 27 he has 5 big league games under his belt. The Twins no longer have Michael Cuddyer to come to the rescue and play first base. Sure the Twins could ask Joe Mauer to move to first full-time but Mauer would not do that on a full-time basis, he wants to catch. So you see, the Twins options are limited. GM Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire must go to bed each night praying for a miracle and that miracle is that Justin Morneau can not only come back to play first base but that he can play like he did before 2010. A miracle is described as: an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause. Yep, that is what we need!