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Updated: February 29th, 2012 9:11am
Morneau's candidness 'wasn't anything other than stating the obvious'

Morneau's candidness 'wasn't anything other than stating the obvious'

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Through the first five days of full-squad workouts, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has not missed an infield drill, a live batting session or a weightroom appointment.

On Tuesday, Morneau squared up a Francisco Liriano fastball and deposited it over the center field fence on side field No. 5.

And on Wednesday, Morneau confirmed he hopes to play in the Twins' first official spring training game on Saturday, at home against the Tampa Bay Rays (the team has a 'B' game scheduled for Thursday against the Red Sox, but starters aren't expected to play).

These are all positive signs, even though the true tests for potential concussions can't be simulated in practice, only games.

But for now, with Morneau going through a full week of practice, the negative buzz stemming from his candid comments last week has temporarily quieted down.

Asked if he was aware of the firestorm he caused -- in part by saying "you can only torture yourself for so long" -- Morneau joked, "What's Twitter?"

"Somebody told me (about the public reaction). I think there was a lot of positive things we walked about. I was asked a question, I gave an honest answer and that was it."

Morneau added, "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if the stuff continues I probably wouldn't be able to play again. It wasn't anything other than stating the obvious. ...

"I also said that I don't expect that to happen. I don't anticipate that to happen. That's something that's in the back, maybe five percent, of my mind. But you have to, obviously, you have to look at all the options and everything that's happened. You kind of look to see what you want to be besides a baseball player when you're done playing. Sometimes you have control when that is and most of the time you don't.''

Regarding Morneau's home run off Liriano, it means very little in the grand scheme. But it's rare for hitters to make solid contact this early in camp, because for the first few days most hitters aren't even swinging at live pitches; they're just tracking. When they do start swinging, it usually takes a few days -- or even a couple weeks -- for timing to come around.

"I've never hit a homer in (those live sessions), especially when they weren't telling us what (pitch) was coming," he said. "I think I've done it once when they were still telling us what was coming, but I was more encourage by the fact that I was able to react when we didn't know what was coming. ...

"I'll take the positives out of that, and try to ignore the slider I missed by 4 feet."

If Morneau does play in the team's first spring training game on Saturday, it would put him ahead of last year's schedule, when he appeared in a 'B' game on March 8 while still being monitored closely by doctors.

Doctors even made sure to have manager Ron Gardenhire schedule Morneau in for specific night games to test out different environments.

"There was a lot more... I don't know if stress is the word, or unsure or concern (last year)," Morneau said. "Where I was at and how every day was going to be, you know. I think I kind of have a better idea of how I feel and what I need to do every day to try to prepare. Try to take it slowly, force myself to take it slowly because stuffed dragged on longer than it should have. I was trying to get back to full 100 percent feeling like myself the first week instead of just taking it slowly and trying to be ready for the start of the season."

By the time he underwent neck surgery in June last season Morneau said he felt like the concussion issues were in the rear view mirror. As July and August came along, Morneau was no longer speaking regularly with doctors about concussions.

"But then it happened again," he said. "I don't know if it was more frustrating, but it was equally as frustrating as the first time. I was pretty optimistic that everything was going to go good the rest of the year. I thought I was starting to move past it.

"Hopefully that'll happen again soon."

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
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