LIVE › 9-11:59 p.m. Sports Center Tonight
NEXT › 10 p.m. ESPN SportsCenter
11 p.m. ESPN SportsCenter
Midnight ESPN SportsCenter
Updated: February 17th, 2012 3:47pm
Notebook: Concussions far from the only issue for Justin Morneau

Notebook: Concussions far from the only issue for Justin Morneau

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
Email | Twitter
SportsWire Daily

Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports

Signup!

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If injuries were the main hindrance for a 99-loss Minnesota Twins team last year, it would be foolish to overlook that theme heading into spring training this season.

The Twins performed physicals on almost everyone who showed up for TwinsFest in late January, but there are still several questions and situations worth monitoring -- guys coming off surgery, guys who dealt with lingering injuries in 2011, etc.

1B Justin Morneau (concussion, surgeries): In some ways, Morneau enters spring training with more question marks than he had last year. Concussion symptoms are the common denominator going back to July of 2010, but add in four surgeries (neck, wrist, foot, knee) and some lingering numbness in his left index finger and it's tough to be completely optimistic about Morneau's chances to return to MVP form. He will get back on the horse when position players officially report next week.

OF Denard Span (concussion, migraines): The Twins won't know what to expect with Span's health until he starts practicing and playing on a daily basis, but the outfielder doesn't think he will have any limitations early on. Span told 1500 ESPN last month: "I can't sit up here and say every day has been a hundred percent awesome day. I have days, just like even if I didn't have a concussion history -- everybody has days when they just don't feel that great. I'm trying to learn how to deal. ... I think a lot of it's mental, too, at times, trying to deal with deciphering whether it's a concussion or if it's just me maybe not getting enough sleep or just not having a good day. I have had some days when I don't feel the best, but I get through it."

RHP Joel Zumaya (elbow): Zumaya hasn't pitched in a game since June 28, 2010 when he blew out his elbow at Target Field. Two major surgeries later, Zumaya looks to regain his flame-throwing form, but prior arm injuries have limited him to 38 innings or fewer in every season since 2006. The Twins will limit his workload much like they did with Joe Nathan in spring of 2011.

RHP Nick Blackburn (forearm): The right-hander underwent surgery in late September to help relieve discomfort from Radial Tunnel Syndrome that caused a decompression of the radial nerve. The rehab process lasted about eight weeks, but Blackburn has already thrown a couple bullpen sessions prior to pitchers and catchers officially reporting. Velocity might be a concern as he attempts to ramp things up, but Blackburn told 1500 ESPN earlier this week he feels comfortable operating in the upper-80's if the movement on his pitches remains the same.

INF Luke Hughes (shoulder): Hughes will probably be limited for the first couple weeks of spring training after spraining his shoulder in the Australian winter league. He took groundballs at first base during a group workout on Friday morning. Hughes is out of minor league options, so if he doesn't make the 25-man roster out of spring training he will be exposed to waivers.

OF Ben Revere (knee): Revere underwent minor knee surgery in early October, but the procedure wasn't expected to hinder him from going full-speed during spring training.

RHP Jared Burton (shoulder): Burton underwent shoulder surgery on April 4 and was limited to only 21 total innings. Injuries also kept him at 41 innings in 2010. Burton comes to camp healthy, as a non-roster invite, but he hasn't handled a large workload since the 2009 season.

RHP Scott Baker (elbow): Baker's elbow is not considered a problem heading into spring training, but his recent history of developing issues later in the season make it worth keeping an eye on in February and March.

RHP Jeff Manship (shoulder): Shoulder soreness limited Manship to only 34 innings last season, but when healthy he struck out 26 and walked only four in 31 Triple-A innings. Manship threw a bullpen session Friday morning. All indications are he's back to 100%.

Gutierrez adds a pitch

According to Baseball America, Twins' 2008 first-round pick Carlos Gutierrez has added a cutter to his repertoire this offseason.

Gutierrez, 25, posted a 4.62 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 30 unintentional walks in 62 1/3 innings last season at Triple-A. The Twins are waiting for him to improve his control before promoting him.

Gutierrez has enough velocity (mid-90's) and movement on his fastball to succeed in the major leagues, but he has yet to show consistent command of his entire pitch repertoire.


Players spotted

Several pitchers and catchers participated in bullpen sessions on the side fields at the Lee County Sports Complex on Friday, including Burton, Baker, Manship, Alex Burnett, Jason Bulger, Liam Hendriks, David Bromberg, Anthony Swarzak, Hudson Boyd, Scott Diamond, Drew Butera, Chris Herrmann, Danny Lehmann, J.R. Towles and others.

Chris Parmelee, Aaron Bates and Ray Chang took part in batting practice along with several other minor leaguers.

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
4089