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Twins' Morneau looking forward to off-season without surgery

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Associated Press
10/2/2012 9:37:51 PM
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TORONTO -- Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau can't wait to have a normal off-season.

Over the past two years the 31-year-old native of New Westminster, B.C., has had to deal with the side-effects of a concussion that he picked up in July 2010 on a play at second base against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Morneau's had various other ailments, including surgery to stabilize a tendon in his left wrist one year ago, and isn't expected to play in the season-ending series against the Jays because of general wear and tear from his longest season since 2009 and soreness in the wrist.

But at least he's looking forward to an off-season without surgery.

"It's nice to be able to work out with the goal of getting stronger instead of rehabbing from an injury or surgery or a combination of them both," Morneau said. "I'm really looking forward to that and spending some normal time with my family in October for the first time in a few years.

"It's a huge difference obviously compared with the ones I was on last year and the year before. Once I start working out again it should be refreshing. It seems like work sometimes when it's rehabbing from a surgery or whatever it is, but when the whole goal is getting stronger for the season, it has a different feel to it."

If Morneau is indeed done for the season he will have batted .267 with 19 homers and 77 runs batted in and an OPS of .773 in 134 games, his most since 2009 when he played in 135.

"This winter will be a nice winter for him actually," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Tuesday's game. "He's not going to have to rehab, all he needs is rest and then get just back into his workouts. Now it's just letting everything heal and that doesn't happen during the course of the season."

After playing 81 games in 2010 and 69 in 2011, it took Morneau some time to get back into a hitting groove. A sore wrist also put him on the disabled list in May.

"Probably somewhere around the all-star break, after the all-star break, I started to feel like my swing was closer to what I wanted it to be and I started hitting lefties better," he said. "I think I started 8 for 90 or something against lefties. It was a combination of things. I had some issues with my swing."

Before the break he batted .246 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs with a .752 OPS. After the break, he had eight home runs and 39 RBIs but batted .289 with a .793 OPS.

"There were times when it was good," Gardenhire said. "There were times as Mornie always put it, shrugging his shoulders, 'We've got to play, let's go, it is what it is.' He went through that a lot off and on but there were times when it was great, no issues whatever and that's when you saw his swing staying through the ball.

"He played through it, which I expected him to because he's been through so much over the last couple of years that he didn't want to get off that baseball field. Pretty good year, considering everything he went through."

Morneau was eased back into the Twins lineup as designated hitter this season and he played there for most of April.

"It didn't last long before he said, 'I've got to play, I've got to be on first base,"' Gardenhire said.

In mid-May when he returned from a stint on the disabled list, he played first base regularly.

Morneau agreed that he didn't like being DH.

"It's something that takes some getting used to and when you're struggling it's hard because you don't feel like you're contributing anything to the team," he said. "Those oh-fers are tough. You're oh for the three at-bats, you're not feeling like you're contributing and you put too much into that last at-bat.

"It helps if you get a hit early. It's something you should be able to deal with as an experienced hitter but it makes it difficult if you're not having any success."

Morneau, who was the American League MVP in 2006, hopes a regular off-season routine can get him back on track. When he suffered the concussion in 2010, he was having a big season, batting .345 with 18 homers, 56 RBIs and an OPS 1.055 in 81 games.

But before the 2013 season begins there is the World Baseball Classic in March. Morneau and left-handed pitcher Scott Diamond, a teammate on the Twins and with Team Canada, watched on their computers recently as Canada qualified by winning a tournament in Germany.

"I'm looking forward to it," Morneau said.

Justin Morneau (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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