Morneau still needs to be cleared by MLB
Several more Twins players reported to spring training in Fort Myers on Tuesday, although four players have not yet reported. That includes first baseman Justin Morneau, who missed the end of the last three seasons. Position players have until Thursday to report to camp, and full-team workouts begin Friday.
FOXSportsNorth.com will track reports from the news outlets already in Florida until March 4, when Tyler Mason will begin covering the team in Fort Myers. A look at some of Tuesday’s storylines from camp:
Morneau needs clearance from MLB: Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is one of the few position players who has yet to report to Fort Myers. When he does arrive at camp, Morneau will need clearance from Major League Baseball to take part in activities, general manager Terry Ryan told reporters. Morneau missed time the past two seasons with concussion symptoms stemming from a collision at second base during the 2010 season.
Ryan said he wasn’t concerned about Morneau getting clearance, saying it is merely a formality.
“We’ll get clearance. But we have to have Justin sign off on it, too, so we can’t do anything till he shows up,” Ryan said, according to 1500 ESPN. “There’s no reason think this is anything other than just paperwork, but we can’t do anything until Justin Morneau signs off.”
MLB’s concussion policy was put in place last season. Morneau played in just 69 games last season due to concussion symptoms as well as a few other ailments. Before he suffered the concussion in 2010, Morneau was batting .345 with a .618 slugging percentage — both career highs — and had hit 18 home runs in 81 games.
Three catchers a possibility: Joe Mauer’s inability to stay healthy last season meant the Twins had to scramble to find alternative options at catcher. Backup Drew Butera ended up playing in 93 games — 11 more than Mauer — while Minnesota also used Rene Rivera and Steve Holm behind the plate.
The Twins signed free agent Ryan Doumit this winter. While Doumit showed his versatility in his seven seasons with Pittsburgh, he primarily played catcher for the Pirates.
While Butera has been solid defensively during his two big league seasons, he has struggled at the plate. In 2011, Butera hit just .167 and slugged .210 in 234 at-bats. Doumit, meanwhile, hit .303 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 77 games last year.
Given Doumit’s versatility, there’s a good chance the Twins could keep three catchers on the 25-man roster, MLB.com reports.
“I just want to let it play itself out,” Gardenhire said, according to MLB.com. “At the end of spring we’ll see what the baseball team is going north. We’ll see how we get through it. We’ll make those decisions at the end. But if you’ve been around me, you know I’ve never had a problem with three catchers if I have a good enough baseball team to carry three catchers and have enough thump from the other positions that I don’t have to worry.”
Nishioka not comfortable as utility man: Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka spent time at both shortstop and second base in 2011, but there’s a good chance he won’t have a spot in the starting lineup this season with the Twins. Nishioka struggled both offensively and defensively in his first season in the majors and also dealt with a broken leg early in the year.
The Twins acquired free agent Jamey Carroll this offseason, and he’s expected to be Minnesota’s every-day shortstop. Alexi Casilla is also expected to hold down the starting job at second base. That means Nishioka could be the odd man out.
But the 27-year-old Nishioka told the Star Tribune that he doesn’t really see himself as a backup.
“I have not imagined myself as a utility player,” Nishioka told the Star Tribune through an interpreter.
In 68 games last season, Nishioka batted just .226 with 19 RBIs and five doubles in 221 at-bats. He also committed 12 total errors, including 10 in 60 games at shortstop.
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