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Updated: January 29th, 2011 8:39pm
Notebook: GM says Morneau progressing, but 'is not 100 percent'

Notebook: GM says Morneau progressing, but 'is not 100 percent'

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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In all likelihood, the true measure of Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau's progress won't be determined until he faces live pitching in a spring training game down in Fort Myers -- something he hasn't done since a knee to the head in Toronto on July 7 knocked him out for the season.

As of this weekend, instead of participating in TwinsFest activities, Morneau continues to workout in Arizona, pushing through any potential post-concussion symptoms that flare up -- at the advice of team trainers and doctors.

This probably comes as no surprise, but as Morneau continues to make progress -- the chosen word of Twins officials until further notice -- he is not yet operating at full strength.

"It's time for him to stay focused on his preparations for spring training," general manager Bill Smith said in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Saturday.

"You can circle April 1st on the calendar. That's the day we're shooting for to get him ready."

Smith added, "It's still a work in progress. He is not 100%, but I've talked to his doctors, I've talked to him. He's getting better all the time, he's doing very good workouts."

Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers on February 17, with full squad workouts beginning one week later. The Twins have refrained from setting any time tables for Morneau, who as of late last week had yet to add baseball activities to his workout regimen.

"We only want to go through this process one time," Smith said. "We want him to get healed, get back on the field and resume his career without having that rollercoaster up and down."

So the wait continues.

Tree fallout

The Twins announced earlier in the week that the trees behind the center-field fence would be removed in order to help the vision of hitters -- particularly during afternoon games where shadows can create depth perception issues.

"For me, yeah it was a little distracting," catcher Joe Mauer said in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Saturday. "I was more worried about the paint behind it than anything. Once it gets in your head it kind of keeps going."

Outfielder Michael Cuddyer pointed to safety issues, telling the Star Tribune, "The trees are beautiful, but they cast three different shades on the background -- in the view of the hitter.

"Especially those 3 o'clock games on Saturday, it's scary. It's literally scary. It's not that I'm worried I'm not going to be able to see the ball, hit the ball. I'm literally scared I'm not going to see the ball period."

Along with relocating the trees, the Twins will also add a special coating to the center-field backdrop to help hitters' vision even more.

Young, Liriano remain unsigned

The Twins have two outstanding arbitration cases to settle -- outfielder Delmon Young and starter Francisco Liriano.

Young filed for $6.2 million, while the Twins offered $4.6 million. Liriano filed for $5 million, while the Twins filed for $3.6 million.

Arbitration hearings begin on February 1, and the Twins have only gone in front of a judge four times in the last 10 seasons -- once each with Johan Santana and Matt Lawton, and twice with Kyle Lohse.

On Saturday, in regards to possible long-term extensions for either Young or Liriano -- instead of one-year deals -- GM Smith told the Pioneer Press, "Right now, we're focused on trying to get them signed for 2011, and we'll go from there."

Even so, the Twins traditionally don't hammer out contract extensions until February or March.

It's possible the team could reach one-year deals with Young and Liriano to avoid an arbitration hearing, then turn around and begin long-term negotiations.

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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