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Updated: March 27th, 2012 10:43am
Reusse: It's no big deal if Morneau is mostly a DH

Reusse: It's no big deal if Morneau is mostly a DH

by Patrick Reusse

FORT MYERS, FLA. _ Justin Morneau talked to reporters on the morning of Feb. 24, before the 2012 Twins took the field for the first full-squad workout of spring training.

Morneau's remarks were candid, including a suggestion that if he continued to deal with post-concussion symptoms his baseball career was likely to end. This left most Twins' followers to feel gloomy of what lied ahead for the 2006 MVP of the American League.

Thirty-two days later, Morneau has yet to miss anything as far as workouts and exhibitions in which manager Ron Gardenhire wanted him to participate. The one concession he has made is to serve as the designated hitter rather than to play first base in exhibitions.

On Monday, he revealed the reason for that: Advice from his doctors that the concussion symptoms were more likely to occur when he was worn out. And there was a greater chance of reaching that point playing first base rather than DHing.

We had spent much time in the media and the sporting public saying, "Morneau's more likely to be in a collision running the bases than playing first base. How much is it lowering his percentage of sustaining another concussion by not playing first base? Maybe 20 percent?''

Once again, we civilians were put in place on our lack of insight into brain injuries with Morneau's clarification of the 1B/DH situation on Monday. He's not DHing to avoid collisions; he's doing so to prevent a weariness that can play a part in bringing on the symptoms.

Thanks for that, Justin. Now, we can shut up and contemplate the possibility that the Twins' biggest bat will be back in the lineup for over 500 at-bats _ and if most of those come as the DH, hallelujah.

The Twins and their fans would be unanimous in accepting Morneau as he appears today over the player that they were expecting 4 ½ weeks earlier. There's still no guarantee with Morneau, but there's now optimism, and being the DH might increase that optimism.

There would be panic about the first base situation minus Morneau if the Twins did not have in camp a player who appears to be a capable successor. There hasn't been much good happen to the Twins over the past two years, but one hopeful sign has been the play of Chris Parmelee.

The Twins gave Parmelee, the first round draft choice for 2006, a look last September after he played at Class AA New Britain. General Manager Terry Ryan put it this way on Monday: "Parmelee hit better in the big leagues last year than he did in double-A.''

Parmelee batted .287 with 13 home runs and 83 RBIs in his second season in New Britain. Then, he played in 21 games with 76 at-bats and batted .355 with four home runs and 14 RBIs for the Twins.

There's no better way to get fooled than by a young player's success during a lost September. I've seen it with several Twins' players and wasn't expecting to be overly impressed with Parmelee this spring.

He has been outstanding at the plate and much improved at first base. Ryan said a couple of days ago that Parmelee had been the best player in camp.

There have been players with Parmelee's profile _ Corey Koskie in the late '90s comes to mind _ who were having a great spring, until realizing there was a chance to make the team and went in the tank at the plate and in the field during the final days in Florida.

Parmelee turned 24 in February. He's mature both as a personality and his view of the strike zone.

Joe Benson, also 24, came up from New Britain with Parmelee last September. The outfielder has tremendous talent, but he hasn't figured out the strike zone. Benson was optioned to the minors on Tuesday.

This is a view contrary to the way Ryan and others seem to feel, but I think the Twins are a better club with Parmelee at first base and Morneau as what amounts to a full-time DH.

Parmelee puts more juice in the lineup and Morneau might be more worry-free. It also would allow the Twins to get by with two catchers for this reason:

When not catching, Joe Mauer would be in the lineup at first base and Ryan Doumit would be in right field. That way, if there was a reason for a late-game switch, Mauer or Doumit could be put behind the plate without the Twins losing the DH in the batting order.

I'm betting the Twins still are going to open the season with Drew Butera as a third catcher because of Gardenhire's paranoia over the position. The good news would be that three catchers is not something the Twins were tied to all season.

Bottom line: Parmelee and Morneau being in the lineup together will make the Twins a better club _ and if Parmelee's the first baseman in that mix, what's the issue?

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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