FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Even though he had an abbreviated spring training while working his way back from a concussion, Minnesota Twins slugger Justin Morneau thinks he will be ready to go on Opening Day in Toronto.
Morneau capped his spring with a hit in Minnesota’s 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.
The 2006 AL MVP missed the final three months of last season with the concussion and only played in eight of 29 spring games. He hit .192 (5 for 26) with one RBI, but still hasn’t officially been announced for the Twins’ first game against the Blue Jays on Friday.
“I feel pretty good,” Morneau said. “I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable. I kept progressing through spring training. I feel like I got enough at-bats to feel comfortable at the plate.
“I get to leave with the team. So obviously I’m pretty happy. I’ll go to Atlanta and see how it goes. I’ll still continue the process. If everything goes the way it has gone, I’ll be out there for opening day. That’s the plan.”
The Twins play two exhibition games in Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading off to Toronto, the site of Morneau’s injury last July 7 when he collided with Blue Jays second baseman John McDonald while trying to break up a double play and missed the rest of the season.
“I’ve thought about that,” Morneau said. “It’s kind of funny, but it is what it is. It’ll be nice to get back there right away and play.”
Jeff Karstens allowed five hits and one unearned run in 4 2-3 innings for the Pirates. He’s hoping to give the team flexibility as either a reliever or a fifth starter.
Steven Pearce had a double and an RBI and Jose Tabata added a double with a run scored for the Pirates, who will play two exhibition games against the Phillies in Philadelphia on Tuesday and Wednesday before opening the regular season on Friday in Chicago against the Cubs.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he was pleased with Morneau’s progression.
“He’s put some good swings on the ball,” Gardenhire said. “He’s gotten some hits. He’ll probably tell you, it’s not the perfect situation for him right now because most of the time he likes to get more at-bats. But he got as many as he could under the circumstances. He’s as good as he can be right now.”
The Twins rallied in the ninth to win, with minor league catcher Danny Lehmann knocking in the winning run.
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota’s No. 2 starter, gave up three runs and four hits and struck out four in six innings. The lefty irked Twins management by not doing his shoulder strengthening exercises in the offseason, and finished a spotty spring with a 4.82 ERA.
“He was good,” Gardenhire said. “I thought he was under control, which was really good. This is what we’ve been waiting for. He wasn’t flying all over the place.”
NOTES: The Twins set three spring training attendance records. They set a single-game mark of 8,347 fans, and a spring training mark for most fans in a 16-game season, drawing 129,453. The per-game attendance average of 8,090 fans topped the previous record of 8,053 set last year.
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