Notebook: Morneau has reduced his workload; Revere will stay in RF
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau's three-hit, two-homer outburst in Chicago on Thursday night was vintage stuff -- signs of the man who won the 2006 MVP Award, and the man who was perhaps baseball's most dangerous hitter for the first three months of the 2010 season prior to suffering a concussion.
Since returning from the disabled list on May 16, Morneau is hitting .290/.343/.742 with four home runs, two doubles and 12 RBIs in eight games. This recent surge raised his batting line on the season to .248/.322/.543 -- good enough for an .865 OPS that would rank him seventh among MLB first baseman (if he had enough ABs to qualify for the batting title.
Is this as good as he's felt at the plate since July of 2010?
"I don't know. It's hard to compare," Morneau said. "2010 was the most consistent I'd been. I've had days that I've felt good. I've had days that I've felt awful, so it's hard to say.
"Right now, I feel pretty good. I've been playing long enough now that I don't really get excited over one good day or one bad day. It's something that hopefully I can be more consistent than I've been, that's for sure. Hopefully yesterday was a good starting point for that."
To be more consistent Morneau must stay healthy, but he already missed two weeks due to lingering wrist soreness that stems from offseason surgery.
Morneau is considered one of the hardest workers in baseball. He takes more swings in the batting cage and during batting practice than most hitters would, but this year he's been forced to alter that workload.
"I've been taking less swings," he said. "I've been taking less swings pretty much all year. I've been doing less swings now, I don't if I would say a lot less, but if it's 10 or 15 less every day, or not less every day, it kind of adds up over a week or a month. Hopefully, it's something that will help soreness and the rest of that stuff stay out of there. ...
"There are times when you feel you need to put in some extra work and take some more swings to get to where you need to be. I'm just going to have to avoid that."
Manager Ron Gardenhire said getting Morneau to cut back on batting practice swings has been a process in some ways.
"We have to calm him down to tell you the truth, because once he gets going -- if he goes 0-fer he'd like to go out and take 200 more swings," Gardenhire said. "He's a worker and he likes to swing the bat, so we want him to calm down more than anything else, and not take as many swings and stay healthy."
Blackburn close to rehab assignment
Right-hander Nick Blackburn was placed on the disabled list with a strained thigh muscle after his start on May 16, but he could be headed out on a rehab assignment soon.
Blackburn is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday and the team will re-evaluate after that.
In seven starts this season Blackburn owns an 8.37 ERA with 19 strikeouts, 13 walks and seven home runs allowed in 33 1/3 innings. He has allowed five earned runs or more in five of those seven outings.
The Twins haven't decided where Blackburn's rehab assignment will take place, but facing minor leaguers could help with two important items: Getting him healthy, and getting him back on track performance-wise.
Span, Revere will not switch positions
Since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester last week, Ben Revere has been a fixture in the Twins lineup, starting in six of the team's eight games -- five consecutive as the right fielder while Denard Span occupies center and Josh Willingham left.
With that, Gardenhire is left with the same question he answered during spring training: Can Revere, with a weak throwing arm, play every day in right field?
It's fair to wonder whether the Twins would be better off with Revere's superior speed in center and Span's arm (and range) in right field -- a position Span excelled at earlier in his career at the Metrodome.
For now the Twins aren't going to tinker with the defensive alignment.
"We've said Span's going to be our center fielder, we've put him out there, Ben's been up and down," Gardenhire said in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Friday. "Span does pretty good out there. ...
"Ben definitely covers a lot of ground, and it's been thought about, but I think Denard would be devastated if we tried to do something like that right now. It would be a process to work that through."
Using Ultimate Zone Rating as a gauge, both Span and Revere rate as above-average defensive center fielders -- with Revere rating better than Span.
No DL for Burnett, yet
Alex Burnett complained of elbow discomfort after his one-inning outing against the White Sox on Wednesday.
As of Friday night the injury was not considered serious enough to warrant a roster move, but that could change over the weekend depending on how Burnett progresses.