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Updated: March 11th, 2011 1:23pm
Justin Morneau plays four innings in official spring debut

Justin Morneau plays four innings in official spring debut

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Playing in his first official spring training game on Friday, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a reach on error against the Boston Red Sox at Hammond Stadium.

The first baseman also fielded two groundballs in four innings in the field.

Facing left-hander Jon Lester in both at-bats, Morneau struck out looking on a fastball in the first inning and reached on an error in the fourth inning when left-fielder Carl Crawford dropped a fly ball that drifted in the wind. Morneau was replaced by pinch runner Jeff Bailey.

Morneau's unofficial debut came Tuesday in a 'B' game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he went 1-for-2 with a three-RBI double in his first action since suffering a concussion on July 7 in Toronto.

Facing Lester -- one of the toughest lefties in baseball -- was something Morneau actually relished.

"I actually prefer to see as many lefties as I can, to tell you the truth," Morneau said. "Get comfortable, and the more times you can see him -- he's one of the best lefties in the game. The more at-bats you can get off a guy like that, the more you can learn."

Morneau admitted to feeling slightly skittish in 2005 against left-handers in the weeks and months after getting hit in the head with a fastball, and he has expressed some similar feelings about his return from concussion symptoms as well.

"With (Lester), he seems to have pretty good control," Morneau said. "I mean, it can happen to anybody.

"I think that ball I had in the dirt the other day, the pick (against Pittsburgh), I got to it. It didn't hit me in the face. I think that gave me a lot of confidence that reaction, if something happens, instincts are going to take over. I'll be able to get out of the way."

Morneau will take Saturday off, and he will likely be penciled in the lineup once more before the Twins' off-day on Tuesday.

"For me to look more than a few days ahead, it's something we try not to do too much," Morneau said. "But we played four innings today, maybe four or five next time, and as it goes we'll go through our regular progression ... Hopefully by the end of it we're playing seven, eight, nine innings and be ready to go by the time the season starts."

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
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