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  • Is it time to worry about Morneau yet?

    Following Monday’s 0-for-2 performance, lowering his spring batting average to .100, Justin Morneau addressed his struggles:

    "It's gotten better. It's not where I want it to be yet. The swing's getting better. The swing feels a lot better than it did when I first got down here. It's a process, it's moving along. I just have to keep telling myself that it's slow, and just because it's not here now doesn't mean it's not going to be here a week from now."

    Sound familiar?

    A year ago, Morneau was coming off a serious concussion injury and slowly easing back into the game in mid-March. For the majority of the time in Florida in 2011, he struggled. He failed to leave the yard in his 11 games and batted .152 but managed to knock a trifecta of doubles. Reflecting on his performance, told the Star Tribune’s LaVelle E Neal that his “timing is starting to come .”

    Despite his claim to the contrary, in the regular season Morneau’s timing never came.

    As of this past Monday, his results have continued to plummet (down to .091 after yesterday’s 0-for-3 game), sending a ripple of concern through the Minnesota fan base that the timing may never come.

    For those looking for some reassurance, you can turn to the fact that it is hard to put too much stock into the small sample size that is spring training. Additionally, Morneau has never been a fast starter when it comes to spring training (dating back to 2006 and MLB.com’s statistical database). Perhaps the Canadians have a tough time adjusting to the Gulf Coast heat. With the exception of his 2009 spring in which he hit three home runs and slugged over .700, he has been somewhat of a disappointment each March. Nevertheless, he has still managed to come out and perform admireably once the calender flips to April. Take is 2010 spring for instance. That year he posted a batting average of .160 (albeit tagging three home runs). Even though he had what could be considered a slow start, he was blazing through the league, hitting .345/.437/.618 with 18 home runs prior to his run-in with John MacDonald’s knee.

    Morneau and the media on-lookers in Fort Myers are trying to sell hope. “It’s close” is the clear message. Back on March 16th Neal said in his blog that Morneau “swung the bat with murderous intentions tonight, which could be a sign that his timing is coming around to the point where he's comfortable with letting it fly.” Morneau told reporters after Monday’s game that “I think I've just kind of let it fly and hit some balls hard - hit some balls hard at people, hit some balls hard foul. I guess that's a pretty good sign. Especially yesterday, I pulled the ball foul. I hadn't done that in a long time." Likewise, following yesterday’s contest, 1500ESPN.com’s Phil Mackey described Morneau’s outs as “scalded” and hit “hard.”

    These are positive signs, are they not? After all, hard hit balls eventually turn into hits.

    Then again, while that sounds comforting, this has been a historically bad spring output for the first baseman. He has never not hit an extra base hit in spring training. He has never had a sub-.100 batting average. What’s more, he has never had to recover from a concussion, wrist surgery and pain in his neck, shoulder, knees and toes (knees and toes). If he was not be able to shake the concussion alone last year to regain his timing, what is to lead us to believe he will overcome all four ailments to rebound in 2012?
    This article was originally published in blog: Is it time to worry about Morneau yet? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Not to mention the second home run today . . . .
    1. MileHighTwinsFan's Avatar
      MileHighTwinsFan -
      Guess you feel a little silly about posting this blog now.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Guess you feel a little silly about posting this blog now.
      I do not. The point of this post was to address the issue that was raised by fans/commenters/media members who were concerned over Morneau's spring numbers and performance. What I said was (1) it's a small sample size in the spring and (2) those that have been watching him this spring have been noting he had been hitting the ball better the past few games. Without having seen his performance first-hand, I did add that the reports were very similar to what was said in the final two weeks of spring training last year -- which were saying similar things about "hitting the ball hard" and needing to regain his timing. Hopefully, these past two days are an indication of things to come.
    1. TwinsArmChairGM_Jon's Avatar
      TwinsArmChairGM_Jon -
      The extra base hits are definitely a good sign, but the concerns that existed before a double and two home runs are still worth considering. It's nothing to feel "silly" about. The Twins are certainly considering it as they appear to be ready to have him DH the beginning of the year. An article also said that just being physically tired can make him more vulnerable to recurring symptoms. I'd love to see him continue homering, but the up and down nature of his recovery so far leave me with measure optimism.
    1. Billy Bremner's Avatar
      Billy Bremner -
      "Is it time to worry about Morneau yet?"
      Well, that's all a matter of one's expectations. If one enjoys watching a former MVP in the final throes of a career cut short by multiple injuries labor for a last-place team in order to maintain his contract, it will be a grand Summer.
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