Twins 3, Red Sox 2

Twins first baseman Justin Morneau took his next step toward

being ready for opening day.

The 2006 AL MVP went 0 for 2 in his spring training debut as

Minnesota beat a Boston Red Sox split squad 3-2 on Friday.

Morneau played in a ”B” game earlier this week, but this was

his first Grapefruit League action since he sustained a

season-ending concussion last July 7. He missed the final 78 games

of the year.

”Once I took the field, I felt good out there,” Morneau said.

”I feel like I’m a little behind everyone else, just from not

being out there.”

Morneau struck out swinging and reached base on an error by Red

Sox left fielder Carl Crawford, with both at-bats coming against

ace left-hander Jon Lester.

Twins left fielder Delmon Young also played in his first spring

game after coming back from a turf toe injury. He went 1 for 2.

Lester struck out five in four scoreless innings, scattering

four hits and walking none. He is in line to be Boston’s opening

day starter, although no announcement has been made by the

team.

”I want to see as many lefties as I can, to tell you the

truth,” Morneau said. ”The more times you can see him – he’s one

of the best lefties in the game – the more you can learn. He’s

about as good as left-handers go. He’s a tough at-bat.

”It’s also good because you’re focusing on trying to figure out

the at-bat instead of thinking about what you’re trying to do. It

gets your mind off it.”

Asked about his approach to facing Morneau, Lester began with a

four-word answer.

”To get him out,” Lester said. ”It’s the same approach every

time I’ve faced him. The thing that makes it tough is he’s able to

cover a big part of the plate. He’s able to do some damage to both

sides of the field. Just to be able to get him out is obviously

good.

”You don’t want to see guys, regardless of what injury it is,

go through stuff like that. It’s good to see him out there. It’s

good to see him out there playing. Hopefully he doesn’t have any

more effects from it.”

Lester, who went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA in 32 starts last season,

said he has not put much thought into potentially starting on

opening day.

”I feel like I’m on track and everything is going in the right

direction,” said Lester, who has yet to give up a run this spring.

”We’ve still got a long way to go. Whoever gets the ball, it’s

going to be a big honor. If it doesn’t happen, it’s no big

deal.”

Morneau, who was hitting .345 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs at

the time of his injury last season, said just like every spring

training, he wondered if he could be the same player again.

”That always goes through your head,” Morneau said. ”It’s

like that on the first day of spring training, when it looks like

they’re throwing 120 mph and you’re wondering if you can hit

anymore.

”Your reaction times have to get back to normal. Once you do

that, then you can be the same player. I don’t think the doctors

would let me go out there if they didn’t think I can be the same

player.”

Talking to New York Mets outfielder Jason Bay, who suffered a

season-ending concussion last season, and former Twins and Brewers

third baseman Corey Koskie, whose career ended after a concussion,

helped Morneau handle his post-concussion comeback, he said.

”There are so many factors that dictate how long it’s going to

take,” Morneau said. ”For one person it could take a week and

another person it could take a year. You never know what it’s going

to be.

”I believe everything happens for a reason. Maybe I’m one of

the athletes who can stand up and be heard. Who knows in the

future? Right now I’m not quite past all of that yet. I’m worried

about the day-to-day stuff. I’ve missed a significant amount of

time. It shows me life goes on. There’s more important to me than

sports.”

Twins starter Brian Duensing struck out four. He gave up two

runs and five hits in three innings.

NOTES: Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon got only one out. He

walked three and gave up three runs on one hit, increasing his

spring ERA to 8.10. … Twins 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka did not realize

until arriving at the ballpark that there had been a devastating

earthquake in his native Japan. He was able to find out that his

family was safe. He debated about playing and decided it would be

best for his countrymen back home if he did. He went 1 for 2 with a

walk. ”I understand that I’m in an occupation where I can bring

hope and energy back home to Japan,” Nishioka said through his

translator, Ryo Shinkawa. ”So I wanted to be on the field and

think about people back home and give it all out on the field to

try and give something back.”