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Updated: July 23rd, 2012 2:25pm
Zulgad's Roundup: Dodgers appear to have Justin Morneau on their radar

Zulgad's Roundup: Dodgers appear to have Justin Morneau on their radar

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Could the Los Angeles Dodgers end up making an offer for Justin Morneau before the non-waiver trading deadline on July 31?

The Los Angeles Times reported recently that the Dodgers appear reluctant to meet the Chicago Cubs' asking price for a potential two-month rental of pitcher Ryan Dempster and that Morneau, the Minnesota Twins' first baseman, and pitcher James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays are now on the Dodgers' radar.

One of the unnamed sources in the Times' story said the Dodgers are not actively negotiating deals for Morneau or Shields, meaning that things would have to heat up pretty quickly if the Dodgers are going to make an offer to the Twins.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan has made it clear that none of his players are untouchable - Joe Mauer has a no-trade clause in his deal - but Ryan also isn't going to give away Morneau, who was the 2006 American League Most Valuable Player when he hit .321 with 34 home runs and 130 RBI.

Ryan, no doubt, would be looking for quality young pitching in return.

Morneau, 31, is batting only .249 this season with 11 home runs and 40 RBI. He has been slowed by various injuries since being limited to 81 games in 2010 because of a concussion suffered in Toronto.

Morneau's other issues have included neck, back, left knee, right foot and left wrist injuries. All of this means that the Twins might not get an offer they think is sufficient for Morneau.

He is being paid $14 million this season and is due the same amount in 2013 in the final year of his contract. The Dodgers could look for him to serve as a complement to Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in their lineup.

Los Angeles, which is under a new ownership group that includes former Lakers great Magic Johnson, was sitting at 52-44 entering Monday night's game in St. Louis. That put them a game-and-a-half back of the San Francisco Giants (53-42).

The encouraging thing about Morneau this season is that while he hasn't been hitting like the Morneau of old, he is playing more and has proven he can still be used at first base on a regular basis.

Last season, Morneau appeared in only 69 games and had his season ended early by another issue with concussion symptoms. This year, he already has appeared in 73 games. He spent time on the 15-day disabled list in May because of an issue with his surgically repaired left wrist but has not had any other known issues with concussions.

Morneau, who has been away from the Twins recently after his wife, Krista, gave birth to the couple's second child on Saturday, began the season serving as the team's designated hitter in part because of a desire not to overdo things.

He did not feel comfortable in that role, however, and began playing first base again.

There was a report last month that the Toronto Blue Jays also had expressed an interest in Morneau, who is from Canada and certainly would help sell tickets in Toronto.

Kubel red hot

While Michael Cuddyer's departure from the Twins last offseason as a free agent caused many to lament the loss of the popular right fielder, the reality is that he's on a last-place club in Colorado that is actually worse than the Twins.

Cuddyer was hitting .263 with 12 home runs and 51 RBI in 91 games entering the Rockies game on Monday night against the Diamondbacks.

It will be in Arizona that Cuddyer will see one of the hottest players in baseball.

That would be his former teammate, Jason Kubel, who also left the Twins last winter after being allowed to become a free agent. The Diamondbacks left fielder belted three home runs on Saturday night against the Houston Astros in Arizona - all went to different parts of the outfield -- and added another blast on Sunday. Kubel also had a triple in that game.

The three home runs Saturday tied a team record for the most in a game and he came up in the eighth inning with a chance to become only the 17th player in major league history to belt four in a game. Kubel, however, struck out against Astros reliever Rhiner Cruz.

"I put some good swings on some balls that were up, and the balls I was missing (Friday) I wasn't missing tonight," Kubel told the azcentral.com website. "I'm just happy with how everything turned out, and it was a fun win for us."

Kubel had seven RBI over the weekend, including six on Saturday, and now has a National League-leading 71 on the season. His 21 homers are tied for third in the league.

That's not bad production for a guy who signed a two-year, $16 million deal that includes a mutual option for 2014. Cuddyer received a three-year, $31.5 million deal from the Rockies.

"(Kubel's) been great. We've got a long ways to go, but what's he got, 70 RBIs now, 20 home runs?" manager Kirk Gibson told azcentral.com. "He's off to having a great year for us, and you throw in his defense and all the assists he's got (a major-league-leading 11), just exceptional."

The lefthanded-hitting Kubel, no doubt, is happy to be out of Target Field. After hitting 28 home runs during the Twins' last season in the Metrodome in 2009, he saw that total dip to 21 in 2010 (in 143 games) and 12 last season (in 99 games) in the Twins' first two seasons playing outdoors in Minneapolis.

Kubel had worked on pulling the ball more in 2010 and then focused on hitting line drives in 2011. Playing in Arizona, Kubel had the ability to go back to hitting the way he did when the Twins were in the Metrodome.

Vikings' offseason gets average grade

Matt Williamson of ESPN.com gave the Vikings a C-plus in his grades of each NFL team for the offseason.

The Chicago Bears, who received a B-plus, were the only team from the NFC North to finish ahead of the Vikings in Williamson's grades. The Green Bay Packers earned a C and the Detroit Lions got a C-minus.

Williamson's analysis read: "Call me crazy, but I really like the Vikings' offense now - and for the future. I can't say the same about the defense, but that should be next year's offseason priority. ... Although I will pick the Vikings to finish last in their division, they might not be as far away as many tend to think. After another draft in which they select high to improve the defense, and a year of seasoning on offense, Minnesota could start to make some noise."

With the Vikings set to report to training camp on Thursday and begin practicing on Friday, quarterback Christian Ponder is scheduled to join the "Judd & Phunn" show on 1500 ESPN at 11 a.m. Tuesday to preview things.

Wolves wrap-up Summer League

Mike Harris had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Wes Johnson added 14 points as the Timberwolves beat Memphis, 97-91, on Sunday to finish with a 4-1 record in Summer League games played the past week in Las Vegas.

Although Johnson frustrated Wolves' fans with his shooting last season, there are still some with the team who think the fourth-pick in the 2010 draft can develop into a player. They were likely very happy to see Johnson average 20.5 points, which was sixth amonth all players in the Summer League.

Derrick Williams, who has dropped weight in order to move to small forward, had only seven points against Memphis but finished the week with averages of 15.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He also got to the free-throw line an NBA Summer League-high 56 times.

Kammron Taylor, a Minneapolis native, started for the fourth time in five games Sunday and scored 15 points to go along with three rebounds and three assists. He finished the week with averages of 10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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