Morneau being cautiously optimistic

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:29 PM ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. For a guy who hasnt been able to play a regular-season game since last July, Justin Morneau isnt exactly jumping for joy.

The Twins first baseman, a former MVP and native of New Westminster, B.C., last played on July 7 against the Jays in Toronto. During the game, he was kneed in the head by the Jays John McDonald while sliding into second to break up a potential double play, and since then he, like the Jays Aaron Hill the year before, had suffered from post-concussion syndrome.

Morneau finally returned to the field in a B game on Tuesday and will make his first official spring training start Friday against the Boston Red Sox.

I just dont want to get overly excited by four innings of one game, Morneau said Tuesday. Its great to be out there, but Ive been through some setbacks along the way.

He stuck to that theme Thursday prior to the Twins game against the Jays.

If youve got an injury you do rehab and all the things you need to get back out there, Morneau said. This thing, its rest and being patient, knowing that it has its own time table. Its not up to you, its up to your brain and when its healed, its healed, when its ready, its ready. Its completely out of your control.

Head injuries and their lingering effect has recently been put under the microscope in professional sports.

The team has handled it great, he said. Bill Smith, our general manager has been as good as you can ask. Every time hes been asked about it he said we want him back as a person before we get him back as a player. When hes ready, hes ready. There hasnt been that added pressure from the team, which has been very, very helpful.

McDonald, meanwhile, is pleased that Morneau is returning.

Its good for everybody. Its good for baseball, its obviously good for the Twins, McDonald said. Its good to have him back on the field doing what he does best, everyone gets to enjoy that.

McDonald said that because the injury was a freak thing that happened during a routine play he wasnt haunted over the fact that it was his knee that caused the concussion.

You care about baseball and care about the players that play and hes an MVP that plays the game hard and thats part of his game, McDonald said. The Twins not having him playing in the playoffs last year, its not good for the game but he knows that he was doing exactly what he wanted to do and I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, turn that double play and get outs. It is part of the game and you have to respect that.

Morneau, meanwhile, is looking forward, albeit cautiously, to the season opener April 1 against the Jays at Rogers Centre.

Ive been through so many ups and downs with this thing, he said. When I see myself in the lineup on April 1 and were running out there as a team, then Ill be 100% confident that Im ready.


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