TWINS: Who's on first? For now, Morneau

DALLAS - Ron Gardenhire is open to anything that will get, and keep, Justin Morneau on the field next season. Right now, he says, it can happen at first base.

Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau
Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, left, keeps his toe on the base as he grabs a high throw for the out on Baltimore Orioles' Mark Reynolds, right, in the fifth inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

DALLAS - Ron Gardenhire is open to anything that will get, and keep, Justin Morneau on the field next season. Right now, he says, it can happen at first base.

"We plan on him being our first baseman," the Minnesota Twins manager said. "We'll go from there. If somebody tells me something different later on, we'll make adjustments."

The Twins know that might be necessary; Morneau has been a walking injury report since the end of the 2009 season, when he missed most of September and all of the playoffs because of a microfracture in his lower back. In 2010, he suffered a concussion that knocked him out of 81 games, and last season he had surgeries on his neck, foot, wrist and knee and again suffered another season-ending concussion.

In all, he has missed 212 games in the past three seasons.

Last season's concussion symptoms have subsided, Gardenhire said, but the 2006 American League MVP continues to work through some rehab from the surgeries. Still, the concussion has the team - and, he acknowledged last season, Morneau - most concerned. He got it diving for a hard liner Aug. 28 in Detroit, a fairly routine play.


Asked if the Twins have considered trying to get a full season of Morneau as the designated hitter rather than hope he can play in the field, Gardenhire said, "Yeah, we had that conversation at the end of the year.

"If it's a situation that he gets out there and dives for a ball and has to sit out for a month, we don't want that. But our plans are for

him to be our first baseman until somebody tells us different - or Morneau feels he's not able to do that."

Rule 5 serious: The Twins have the second overall pick in this morning's Rule 5 draft, which makes veteran minor leaguers not protected by the 40-man roster available to other teams.

"We have a pretty good idea of who we want," Ryan said.

Teams can't trade their picks, but they can pick for other teams and exchange players in a trade.

Gardenhire, Anderson like Capps: The Twins officially announced their deal with Matt Capps, and Gardenhire said he and pitching coach Rick Anderson are happy to have him back as their closer.

Capps saved a career-high 42 games between Washington and Minnesota in 2010 but was 4-7 with a 4.25 earned-run average and 15 saves last season. Gardenhire said he is "very confident" Capps will bounce back in 2012. "He's a gamer and a first-class person, and I'm very excited," he said.


The right-hander was signed to be the closer, but Gardenhire stood by the company line that all positions will be filled after spring training and said all players will play where they're told to play. During last year's 99-loss campaign, there was occasional grumbling about where players felt they should be. This was most notably - but not limited to - Kevin Slowey's desire to start rather than relieve.

"They'll pitch where we tell them to pitch," Gardenhire said. "It's about winning, and we're going to try to get rid of all the 'I want to do this, I want to do that' stuff."

Briefly: Among the work Gardenhire wants to accomplish in three extra days of spring training this year is rundown practice, but it's certainly not the only fundamental he plans to attack. Reporting three days earlier than usual will give coaches eight days of full team workouts before games begin rather than five.

"I think that's huge," he said. "We'll see. We might suck again; I don't know."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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