Morneau takes 10-game hit streak into break

It’s been a slow climb back from an injury-filled 2011 season for Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, but he heads into this week’s All-Star break on a bit of a high note.

After going 1-for-5 in Sunday’s extra-innings loss to Texas, Morneau is now riding a 10-game hitting streak into the break. During that stretch, he has 14 hits, four RBI and a home run. The homer came on Friday in Minnesota’s first game against Texas. He appeared to have his second home run of the series on Sunday, but his deep drive to right field was knocked down by the wind.

Morneau entered his 10-game hitting streak batting .229 with a .301 on-base percentage. He has now raised those to .246 and .312, respectively, with his hit streak.

Health has been key for Morneau this season after dealing with a concussion, wrist injury and neck surgery in 2011. He spent a brief stint on the disabled list this season with a sore wrist but has otherwise managed to stay on the field. Sunday marked Morneau’s 65th game of the season. By comparison, he played in just 69 total games last year. His 65 games played are seventh-most on Minnesota’s roster. His 11 home runs are third-highest on the team, and he’s also third in RBI with 38.

Morneau began the year primarily as the Twins’ designated hitter as he eased into the season following his tumultuous 2011. But over the past few months, the 31-year-old Morneau has spent almost all of his time at first base. Since May 16, when he returned from the DL, Morneau has been the Twins’ DH just five times in 45 games. The remaining 40 were spent at first base.

Morneau’s current 10-game hitting streak is an encouraging sign for him and for the Twins as they prepare for the second half of the season. Now the biggest thing will be to make sure Morneau can stay healthy for a full year. Injuries have forced him to miss the ends of the last three seasons. Not since 2008 has Morneau played a full season.

Minnesota’s bash brothers: Neither Josh Willingham nor Trevor Plouffe eclipsed the 20-home run mark before the All-Star break, but both right-handed sluggers enter the break with a team-leading 19 homers. According to the Twins, it’s just the third time in team history that two players have each had at least 19 homers before the break.

It recently happened in 2007 when Morneau hit 24 before the break and outfielder Torii Hunter had 19. The only other time came back in 1964, when Harmon Killebrew had 30 and Bob Allison had 21 prior to the break.

Plouffe’s 19 home runs have come in 255 at-bats. In parts of two seasons in the majors in 2010 and 2011, he hit 10 total homers in 327 at-bats. Willingham, meanwhile, is on pace to surpass his career high of 29 home runs he set last year with Oakland. Both players are easily on pace for career-highs in slugging percentage. Plouffe is slugging .546 through Sunday, while Willingham’s slugging percentage is .536 (his previous career high was .496).

Arcia shines in Futures game: Twins minor league outfielder Oswaldo Arcia took part in Saturday’s MLB Futures Game in Kansas City as part of the World Futures team. The 21-year-old Venezuela native finished 1-for-2 with an RBI double in the game, but his team fell to the U.S. Futures by a 17-5 final.

Arcia was promoted from High-A Fort Myers to Double-A New Britain this season after hitting .309 with seven homers and 31 RBI in 55 games with the Miracle. In 18 games so far with the Rock Cats, he’s batting .286 with one home run, 14 RBI and four doubles.

Hicks is Minor League Player of the Week: Twins minor league outfielder Aaron Hicks was named the team’s Minor League Player of the Week for June 30-July 6. During that time, Hicks hit .381 (8-for-21) with a double, one triple and one home run for Double-A New Britain.

Hicks, ranked as the No. 45 overall prospect by Baseball America in 2011, is hitting .268/.358/.430 with eight homers, 37 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 77 games with the Rock Cats this season. He was Minnesota’s first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2008 draft.

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