Twins Monday: Morales quickly lands in Minnesota’s lineup

In Monday’s Twins debut, slugger Kendrys Morales finished 1-for-3 with a walk at Toronto.

Brad Rempel

When the Twins signed free agent Kendrys Morales on Sunday, the question was asked about how long Morales would need before he could play after spending the first two months of the season waiting to sign with a team.

The answer, it turns out, is just one day.

Morales was in the Twins’ lineup Monday as Minnesota opened up a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. He batted sixth as the designated hitter in his Twins debut.

"He said he’s been sitting for four months and he’s thought about it and he watched the game yesterday and he wants to play," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "I’ve got no problem with that. I told him he’s going to have to let me know how he’s feeling. . . . The only way we’re going to find out if he’s ready to do all this is let him do it."

Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who introduced Morales in his press conference Sunday, was surprised when he found out that the veteran slugger was already inserted into the lineup.

"He must have told Gardy that he’s ready to go," Ryan said Monday. "As soon as he’s ready, we’re ready. . . . That’s kind of neat to hear. That’s all right by me."

Morales faced Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in his first game in a Twins uniform. He had hit against Dickey several times during his career but was just 3-for-11 with a strikeout in their previous meetings. In Monday’s debut, Morales finished 1-for-3 with a walk. His hit didn’t come against Dickey, but he did collect a single in the top of the ninth inning against Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen. Morales was then pinch-run for by Aaron Hicks, effectively ending his Twins debut. He struck out looking to end the first inning, grounded out for the first out of the fourth, and drew a walk in the sixth before his ninth-inning single.

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The signing of Morales came as a bit of a surprise, as the Twins don’t tend to make these kind of moves very often. On top of that, several other contending clubs had been mentioned as possible landing spots for Morales. But with Minnesota still believing it can compete for a wild card spot, the addition of Morales seemed to back up the notion that the Twins are trying to win in 2014, not just rebuild for 2015 and beyond.

The Cuban-born Morales spent the first six years of his career with the Los Angeles Angels. He missed part of the 2010 season and all of 2011 with a broken leg that occurred while celebrating his walk-off grand slam in May of 2010. Prior to that injury, Morales had 11 homers and 39 RBI in just 55 games.

Since returning from the injury, Morales had a 22-homer season with the Angels in 2012 and hit 23 homers while driving in 80 runs in his only year with Seattle last season. Yet as the 2014 season began, he remained unsigned and had to wait more than two months before landing with a team. To clear room for Morales on the 25-man roster, Minnesota designated Jason Kubel for assignment. Morales will likely spend most of his time as the Twins’ designated hitter, but he could also play a handful of games at first base whenever Joe Mauer needs a day off.

The Twins signed Morales with the belief that he can be a key bat in the middle of their lineup as they look to make a push in the American League Central.

As for any potential nerves in his Twins debut? Morales wasn’t worried about that.

"I’m too old to get nervous," he said.

FOX Sports North’s Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.

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