FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Minnesota Twins star Justin Morneau hit a three-run double in a spring training “B” game on Tuesday, the first time he’s played since a concussion sidelined him in July.

The 2006 AL MVP was at first base a day after he received medical clearance from his doctor following an hour-long conversation.

“We figured now is as good a time as any to see if my body was ready for this,” Morneau said. “I’ll have a day off tomorrow. Then I’ll come back and get some more work.”

“I’m not more at risk than anybody else with a fastball to the head or anything else. That was kind of what I needed to hear,” he said.

Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates on a back field at the Lee County Sports Complex in a morning game, Morneau grounded into a fielder’s choice in his first at-bat. He then drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double down the line.

“It was exciting for him. It was a fun day,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ll see how he feels and then day by day, slowly work him into it.”

Teammate Carl Pavano noted Morneau sporting a handlebar-style mustache.

“You’ve got to be feeling really good if you are going to be wearing that around here,” Pavano said.

Morneau said he’s happy to finally take this important step, but he’s still mixing caution with his optimism.

“When I see myself in the lineup on April 1, I think that will be when I’m 100 percent,” he said. “I just don’t want to get totally excited. It’s great to be out there, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve been through some setbacks along the way.”

Morneau was kneed in the head sliding into second base against the Toronto Blue Jays just before the All-Star break and has been working his way back over the last eight months. Now that he’s no longer considered at risk for re-injury, he’ll be focusing on his conditioning.

“I just have to get my body used to being in that environment,” Morneau said. “It feels good for me to be approved. It’s still a process. Until I play nine innings and go home at the end of the day and not feel like I need a three-hour nap or anything like that, that’s normal. That’s where we need to be. It’s one of those things where it’s going to take some time to get back into game strength.”

General manager Bill Smith said Morneau has had no restrictions on his activities, whether numbers of swings or groundballs he takes in a given day.

“We’re going to continue to proceed with caution and follow the advice of the doctors and trainers,” Smith said. “We’re all hopeful that he’s going to handle today fine. Then we’ll just take it from there.”

Twins left fielder Delmon Young, who has yet to participate in a regular exhibition game this spring training because of turf toe, also played in the “B” game.

“Delmon felt really good,” Gardenhire said. “Two walks in one game? We haven’t seen that in a long time.”

Gardenhire said barring setbacks, he’ll write Morneau and Young into the lineup for Thursday’s home exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays. The manager said he didn’t have a timetable yet for when Joe Mauer (knee) or Michael Cuddyer (foot) will play.

“We’re only a few away from getting a really fun lineup all the way up and down,” Gardenhire said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (17)
  1. Justin M. says:

    This is very encouraging news! Great to hear he is making good progress.

  2. MorneauWho? says:

    Whatever….Justin Morneau is the Jay Culter of baseball. Apparently he plays when he wants to. And really…if his head “injury” took 9 months to recover from that little bumb…what happens the next time a teammate pats him on the head to congratulate him…he is out for 12 months!?! Just retire!!

    1. kelsey grammar says:

      This is a head injury on top of previous head injuries. Each subsequent injury has more impact. Remember, actress Natasha Richardson got up laughing from her fall on the ski slope and four days later, she was dead.

  3. Boywonder says:

    This guy is as soft as butter. I am dumbfounded by how long Justin has been out. He was out half of last year, and still didn’t make the playlets even to bat DH!

    I know how much we love our Twins, but we have to realize this guy has no heart.

  4. TwinsFan says:

    I think you are all wrong!!! Except for Justin M.!! Go Twins!

  5. Annie says:

    That is great news. Justin is key to the Twins success, so it’s great to see him back in action. To those that say he only plays when he wants to play must not be true Twins fans.

    1. ReallyAnnie? says:

      No Annie…you must not be a true twins fan. Because if you were…you would want a consistant, stable 1st base man. You would realize no one is above the team. And if an individual cant perform…then for the sake of the team, that player needs to go. Do you think before you speak or just spout whatever comes to mind?

      1. mr waffles says:

        What a complete tool——–did you eat paint chips as a kid?

      2. NoMoreWaffels says:

        Mr Waffels didnt have his this morning obviously….why such a foul mood Waffels? The guys comment made sense to me….i dont agree with it, but it wasnt nonsense at least. Dont worry waffels, hopefully your paper route goes better tomorrow. And after that GED, i see big things in your future kid!!

      3. captainobvious says:

        so then you hate j nathan also he missed a full year, people like you should not breed, its a crime

  6. Jon says:

    There’s absolutely no way this guy can stay healthy for an entire season. Hopefully he gets off to great start, and if the Twins are smart, they trade him. First base is the easiest position to fill in baseball, Morneau makes $15/year, and he’s fragile. A guy who makes this much money and can’t stay on the field is a cancer to a mid-market team the like Twins.

  7. Gloria says:

    Shame on everyone!! Justin has suffered more than one concussion, and by now, we should all know how serious these types of injuries are. I give the Twins credit for taking the time to ensure their player’s health in the long run and not rush him back out, or do something rash such as trade him.

    I believe Justin plays with heart, and he’s a great first baseman and hitter. He had a few issues which were worked out a couple of years ago…Gardy did a good job helping him then, and has been very smart, along with the rest of the management, to use caution and commonsense–things that are too often overlooked with athletes, professionals and amateurs alike.

  8. Pat says:

    What a collection of idiots you people are. Unreal!

    1. PatSoSmart says:

      They cant all be as articulate and ingenuis as you there Pat. You are so special…and to prove it, you came on WCCO to call others idiots…brilliant!!!

  9. Kathy says:

    Head injuries are serious business… Get real folks. One’s health comes first. Baseball is just a game. Until you have had a serious head injury yourself or one of your family, you just do not understand. I saw my son suffer for days due to a concussion.. Servere headaches, throwing up, dizzy, etc. It is serious business. Starting back too early could be deadly.

  10. captainobvious says:

    The sad thing is its the same guy retorting to every1’s comments, its so obvious and sad yet he wont use the same name once, your nothing here and even less in your real life, find a bus and step in front of it

  11. Jon says:

    I’m not saying Morneau should have rushed back and endangered his health, if playing would have been dangerous. I’m saying the Twins can’t afford to pay a guy $15 million to sit on the bench, especially a first baseman. He’s proven to be fragile (long history of injuries and shortened seasons, never before head related), so I think it’s in the team’s best interest to trade him ASAP.

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