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Updated: February 24th, 2012 8:27am
Q&A with Justin Morneau: 'You can only torture yourself for so long'

Q&A with Justin Morneau: 'You can only torture yourself for so long'

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Prior to the first full-squad workout of spring on Friday, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau provided an optimistic message with cautious undertones, saying concussion symptoms are still his main concern.

Here's a full transcript of Morneau's 15-minute sesion with reporters at Hammond Stadium:

How do you feel?

"So far so good. One session in the cage but everything was going good before got here. I just got down here and got adjusted to the time and humidity and all the rest of that to get ready for today."

When did you arrive to Fort Myers?

"Sunday night."

Are you going to be thrown right into the fire?

"I don't know if I'll be at full 100 percent go but I'm going to go out there and participant in everything. I'll take it day by day. I don't know how I'll feel tomorrow or a week from now but right now I feel good. I'll just go from here. There's not much else I can say. I feel good so far and I've been able to do all baseball activities before I got out here. But it's a little bit different intensity once you get here. It's not as controlled an environment. But it's something I'm hopeful will continue to go well. I don't see any reason why it won't."

You look leaner

"Yeah. I've been eating a little better. I feel strong. Everything is good. Being lighter on my feet might help my knees, ankles and all my joints and help me move around a little bit. People say why would you wanna lose weight, you'll lose strength, but I don't think I've lost any strength. I've just lost whatever extra I was carrying around. Everyone loses weight during Spring Training but hopefully I'll be able to maintain it. I look back to when I was 18 years old and I was 195 pounds taking batting practice in the Dome and was able to hit homers there when I was 195 pounds. So if it's something that can keep me healthy, that's the key."

How much do you weigh?

"222. It's not too far off from I usually am."

Do you still have some numbness in your left index finger?

"That's been going since last year. That's from the neck surgery. That can take up to two years to regenerate they told me. The strength is back. The feeling and numbness is still there, and it's something they tell me will come back so we'll see. But strength was the main problem with that. But they repaired the disk and it's supposed to be good in the neck."

Does the numbness factor into your swing?

"No. I don't think so."

How's the wrist?

"I've been taking batting practice. If you test it once it would be the same as the right but if you do it 30 times it just fatigues quicker than it would. It just hasn't built that strength yet. This whole winter has been about rehab and trying to get that range of motion back. So if I had to put a number on it, it's at about 90 percent. It's real close and getting better every day. It's just tight from being in the cast so I'm trying to get the range of motion back. It's just the strength and endurance that's the big thing. As far as simple things, I can do it, so it's just about making sure I don't take 900 swings. I just want to build up for Opening Day but I should be good."

What is the bigger issue? The wrist? Or concussion symptoms?

"The only thing right now that I'm worrying about coming back or bothering me as we go along is the concussion stuff. That's something that's just so unknown. There's people that have the post-concussion and deal with it the rest of their lives. It's one of those things that I don't know, I can't predict the future. All that other stuff, the foot, the knee, the wrist, I don't see that limiting me at all going forward. It's just sort of making sure I don't do too much, be too excited that I'm out there with the guys running around and playing, making sure I don't go 100 miles an hour the first couple days. I need to still realize that April 6 is the goal, and that's what I want to be ready for. By doing too much early, it can maybe go backwards. And by trying to pace myself a little bit and be ready for when I need to be ready for, hopefully it'll continue to go well."

Denard Span said he sometimes has trouble differentiating between post-concussion symptoms and regular headaches or "bad" days. Do you have that same problem?

"No. I think it's different for everybody, but for me it was more differentiating between neck stuff. You get some headaches from your neck, issues with your neck, and that can cause the same type of symptoms. I think that was the one for me that was a little bit difficult, was trying to figure out what's coming from the neck and what's actually concussion-related, from either over-activity or just doing something that aggravates it. The neck's been pretty good. I've been taking pretty good care of that. So now I kind of have a pretty good gauge. I've been dealing with it for so long I can kind of tell. At first maybe it's hard to tell."

Can you have a big season while still worrying about concussions?

"I'm expecting to have a good year. I wouldn't put all the work in. I started the rehab in October and have been going pretty much since then, everything with the goal of having a healthy season and doing what I'm capable of doing. I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe that was a possibility or the case. I wouldn't have put all that work in. Obviously I've done everything I can, so I'll see how it goes, but I'm here to help this team win and to drive in runs and hit fourth and do the things I feel like I'm capable of doing."

What are your emotions going into spring training?

"My alarm was set for 5:30 and I woke up at about five after 5:00. I'd say I'm pretty excited. Last year, IK think I was a lot more emotional there were a lot more unknown and just wasn't sure what was going to happen. This year, I know whatever happens I've done everything I've possibly can to be ready and to just put myself in the positions to succeed and have a good year and to do everything that I can I was able to do enough this winter to be prepared. If something goes wrong or if something isn't right it is not because I wasn't prepared or didn't put the work in. The excitement is there. We'll see if I wake up a half an hour early a week from now. It's one of those things where I'm excited to get going.''

How long have you been symptom-free?

"That's a good question. I try not to pay attention. I've been able to do all the workouts and stuff and been able to get my rest and there's still stuff I can do that will irritate me so I just avoid it. I know if I do too much there's a chance that something is going to happens and I try not to get to that point.

"Everything has been pretty good since January, I'd say. Somewhere in there. I don't know. It's hard to tell. There's times Where I won't feel that good and wake up the next day and feel fine, just knowing it may have been a little extra fatigue or I did too much that day or whatever it is. I can't really remember the last time that was. So it has been good for awhile."

Are there certain symptoms you can, or will play through?

"It's not usually during. Usually I'm able to get through the workout when I sit down, the adrenaline stops and I just sort of take a step back and just sit there and go, `Oh, maybe I did a little too much today.' So if there's symptoms there, if there's anything I've learned, there's nothing that's worth risking it for, If there's something there and it happens again then I'm even further back than I was. We're not going to start at 85-90 percent with that. It's not going to be something we're going to take a chance with. Right now. I don't feel like that is going to be the case.

"I can't tell you how I'm going to feel tomorrow. I can't tell you how I'm going to feel a week from now. It's one of those things where you go through it and hope everything continues to go well and go from there.''

Do your nagging injuries worry you?

"Yeah, that's kind of why I changed my diet this offseason and did everything possible to avoid those things, to try and be out there every day. I think it's the kind of stuff that built up over time, from running out there and trying to do a little too much in the winter and too much in the cage and not giving myself enough time to recover. I think that's going to be the big thing, to not feel like I'm behind or haven't done enough, just trusting the fact that I've been doing this long enough that my swing is what my swing is, and my abilities are what they are and the biggest thing is making sure I have enough time to recover. Get my work in, and remember that I've been around for a while and I know how to play the game and what I'm capable of when I'm healthy. The key is to try to stay healthy."

Do you worry that concussion problem may never go away?

"Well, I don't think there will be a career if it's something I'm dealing with. That's the reality of the whole thing. I'm obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long. It's something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out, that's something that nobody wants to go through. Obviously it's been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff. Obviously it's crossed my mind and it's something I've had to think about but when that stuff comes into my mind I continue to look for something positive, and look how far I've come in the last week or in the last month and just hope it continues to go well."

Do you feel different this year than last year?

"Yeah, health-wise and just being able to prepare, being able to hit in the cage. We were throwing to each other out there. We were taking live batting practice in the cage, taking ground balls, just kind of do everything and go through the workouts and not have to sit down for two or three minutes in between sets. I can just kind of workout with the group and not really have too much limitations. I feel further ahead from where I was at."

Are you going to field grounders today?

"Yeah I'm going to go through everything regular and just hope it continues to go well. Stand in on the pitchers and do all the stuff and see how it goes."

Who is your go-to person for advice on concussions?

"Besides my wife, she's always there. I talk to Koskie. He's a guy that, if there's something going wrong or whatever it is, he's a guy that dealt with it for a long time and had a real tough time with it. He's a guy I can lean on. Willie Mitchell, he dealt with a pretty long one. And obviously the doctors, but it helps to talk to someone who went through it and someone who has come out on the other side of it pretty well. Willie's back playing well again and he's been playing well for the last two seasons. Seeing guys like that, I think it helps to have those guys to talk to."

No Cuddyer, Kubel, Nathan... Weird?

"I think obviously we're going to miss them, but it's an opportunity for other guys to step in and take more responsibility in the clubhouse and more of a leadership role and for guys to kind of grow up a little bit. We all kind of came into it when we came in, Joe and Torii and Jacque and Koskie was here and Eddie was here. There was a bunch of guys that were here that kind of came up together and played together for a while. It's opportunity for these guys to kind of start to build that and learn from the guys who have been here and everybody can kind of grow together and hopefully get this team back to being a playoff team like it should be."

Easier for you to lead when you're healthy?

"That's one of those things. It's hard when you're sitting there on the DL or on the sidelines to try and fire guys up, just to feel like you're going out there and you're working hard and you're being a part of it and you're going through that grind every day. It's hard when you're sitting on the sidelines. Obviously you can be that voice or that ear for the guys if they need it. But it's one of those things where if you're on the DL, it's kind of hard to be that guy."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Justin Morneau, Denard Span
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