Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau made his long-awaited return to game action Tuesday for the Twins, playing in one of the most highly anticipated ‘B’ games in Twins spring training history. Morneau, out since the beginning of last July with a concussion, went 1-for-2 with a bases-clearing double and played four innings defensively at first base against Pittsburgh. While most ‘B’ games matter about as much as, well, a regular season game played by Pittsburgh, how Morneau reacts to live game action could be the key to Minnesota’s season.
Minnesota has been summarily dismissed from postseason play the past two years without Morneau. With him back, the Twins lineup could transform from solid to stellar. Furthermore, Morneau has the ability to crush lefties as well as righties, which has been an Achilles’ heel for Minnesota against the Yankees. While Andy Pettite has retired, C.C. Sabathia still looms large (in more ways than one) should Minnesota have another playoff showdown with New York.
Minnesota doesn’t need to be in any rush to get Morneau back in the lineup on a daily basis by the start of the April. The team has gotten plenty of production out of him in the first half for the past several years, relying on him to play every day. Now it is time to protect their investment and preserve him for October, where they desperately need him. If the Twins can find a way to do that, they not only will add an All-Star bat to their lineup, but dramatically improve their bench by shifting either Jason Kubel or Delmon Young there to match up late in games against imposing relievers.
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