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Updated: March 26th, 2012 2:08pm
DH for now: GM and Justin Morneau clarify the position confusion

DH for now: GM and Justin Morneau clarify the position confusion

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The mantra this offseason for Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan was if Justin Morneau was healthy enough to play, he was healthy enough to play first base.

With just over one week left in spring training, Morneau hasn't played first base since March 13. But as the designated hitter, his bat appears to be coming around. Morneau belted two home runs on Saturday, then ripped a double to deep center field on Monday.

The main priority over the past two weeks was getting Morneau's bat going, along with just keeping him in the lineup on a regular basis -- two tasks the Twins appear to have accomplished, at least at the moment.

Also, doctors have told Morneau that he is more vulnerable to concussion symptoms when he is worn out. By eliminating first base, Morneau lessens the wear and tear on his body.

So is it safe to say Morneau is now the Twins' full-time designated hitter?

Not yet. But things could be headed in that direction.

"I don't think you want to lock Morneau into the DH role quite yet," Ryan said. "We're trying to do what's right for the situation."

Ryan later added, "If he's ready to go play first base, (he can). That may happen, it may not happen. It may happen sooner than later. It may not happen at all if he's not feeling right. I don't want to force the issue. He's doing pretty good right now. He scalded that ball today. ... He's got a little hop to his step right now, a little smile on his face. I think he feels a big part of this ball club right now."

The overall goal is to get Morneau's bat in the lineup as often as possible. On Monday, Morneau specifically said "600-plus at-bats" and "162 games" when discussing goals this season.

"I haven't talked to Gardy about it yet," Morneau said. "We'll talk about it the last week, what the plan is going to be for the season and all the rest of that. But right now I feel comfortable at first (base). I feel if they needed me to play, I could go out and do it. ...

"People will say, 'Well, you're playing the what-if game.' Well, I'd rather be healthy than sit there and question everything I'm doing. ... It's one of those things where, am I in the clear? Yes. But is there still a possibility in the end that things could go backwards? A very, very small possibility. So I think that's kind of where the DH thing is based."

Ryan said he still maintains that if Morneau is healthy enough to play, he's healthy enough to play first base, "but I'm not him," Ryan said. "Obviously we'd like to have him play first base if he can. If he doesn't feel comfortable, we've got to make sure we adjust. ...

"If he played first, he'd give us a hell of a lot more flexibility. But I'm not saying that's going to be an issue. We'll work with it, whatever way we go with it."

Ryan followed up by saying Morneau DHing "isn't a problem."

In other words, for now Morneau is primarily occupying the DH slot. But that could change in two days. It could change in one month.

Morneau did say on Saturday that he'd like to play a game or two at first base before spring training ends.

If Morneau were to play first base, the Twins' DH slot would likely be a revolving door. With Morneau as DH, first base and right field likely become revolving doors, to which Ryan admitted, "If (Chris Parmelee) hasn't risen to the occasion here we'd be scrambling."

As of now, Parmelee appears to be a near-lock for the 25-man roster.

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
In this story: Justin Morneau, Chris Parmelee
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