Notes: Seattle special for Morneau
First baseman is visited by family from British Columbia
SEATTLE -- Coming to Seattle is always a special occasion for Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. Having grown up not too far across the Canadian border in nearby British Columbia, Morneau usually is visited by plenty of family during the series and gets a chance to catch up with some old friends as well.But this trip to Seattle also brought back another kind of memory for Morneau. It was a little less than a year ago, in early June, that the Twins made their trip to the Emerald City, and Morneau had his infamous meeting with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. It was that meeting which Morneau has credited with catapulting him on his way to winning his first American League MVP award. And Morneau has taken the opportunity to use this visit as a chance to reflect on just how far he's come in the past year. More importantly he said, it's a chance to remind himself of the personal dedication he made to the game at that time, after having realized that his focus was sometimes on things other than his career. "It's something I have to constantly remind myself of -- why I'm where I'm at and how quickly it can go away just like that," Morneau said. "I know I could quickly go back to being not good if I didn't do that." This season has been different for Morneau in the fact that he hasn't gotten off to the slow starts that have plagued him in past years. But even though he's hit .275 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in his first 14 games, Morneau said that he hasn't quite been happy with his start. Part of the reason for that is Morneau wants to improve upon his hitting in situations with runners in scoring position. Morneau is just 5-for-20 (.250) with RISP so far this year. "The biggest thing for me is getting that guy in from third with less than two outs," Morneau said. "[In] five of those chances, think I've only done it once. But it only takes one hit like yesterday, where it was two outs with runners on second and third, and just to get that hit off the lefty was a big one. Sometimes, a hit like that can turn it all around." Having to turn around a start like he's had in '07 is a far different feeling, though, than Morneau had at this point last season, when he was trying to dig himself out of an early hole. With all the experience he has behind him, Morneau knows that he's a much different player now than he was then, but he hasn't let it change his hunger to continue to improve. "I've got my routine, and I've got everything I need to do," Morneau said. "Now I just need to get up there and feel comfortable at the plate and get those guys in when those situations are there to help win games. It's a lot simpler now, but there still is work to do." Count on me: Matt Guerrier's role in the bullpen last season was limited mostly to just long relief stints without much time in tight situations. But a few injuries and a taxed bullpen early this season have given Guerrier a bit more time in those types of situations during the first two weeks of '07. That was the case in Wednesday night's game against the Mariners, as Guerrier came into the contest with the bases loaded and only one out in the seventh as the Twins held a 5-3 lead. Guerrier was able to step up in the situation, as he recorded two straight outs to get the Twins out of the inning unscathed. It was just more of the norm for Guerrier. He hasn't allowed a run in 9 1/3 innings this year. He has given up just two hits and struck out four without issuing a walk during that stretch. And Guerrier hopes that more chances for late-inning work will be on the way. "You always want to be pitching in those situations," Guerrier said of the one he faced in Wednesday's game. "But I realize that at any point in the game, they could put me in, from the first to the ninth. So every day you have a chance to pitch. And that is fun too." Injury report: The Twins list of injuries has been long over recent days, but it got a bit smaller on Thursday. That's because third baseman Nick Punto was back in the Twins' lineup after missing four games due to a sprained left ankle. The team was still without Torii Hunter as he sat on the bench for the second straight day. Hunter said he was still experiencing some soreness in his left shoulder and felt another day off would benefit him. He could possibly return to the field on Friday, but he was going to see how he felt after his hitting session Thursday before putting a timetable on when he will return. As for Rondell White, the team is expected to make a decision following Thursday's game as to whether the outfielder will be activated from the disabled list. White is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, and Gardenhire said that he feels White is pretty close to being ready to go. Days keep growing: The Twins continue to see their injury problems escalate as second baseman Luis Castillo became the latest player to join the day-to-day list. Castillo left Thursday's game in the fifth inning with a strained left quad. Gardenhire said that Castillo had been battling a sore quad, and he had tried to get the player to sit out for the game but Castillo had talked him into letting him play. The plan is to reevaluate Castillo on Friday to see if there might be a need to put him on the disabled list, especially considering the limited bench that the Twins have been facing recently. Gardenhire didn't think that would be necessary after Thursday's game, but with so much going on recently, he wasn't sure how long it might stay that way. "It's getting a little hairy to say the least," Gardenhire said. "We have a lot of day-to-days."
Down on the farm: For as much trouble as many Major League clubs have had getting games in due to weather, the Twins farm system has seen even more trouble.Triple-A Rochester and Double-A New Britain have each had eight games postponed due to rain, snow and other bad weather conditions so far this season. Both were finally able to get games in on Thursday as Rochester played a doubleheader against Pawtucket and New Britain had a night game scheduled. Rochester split its two games. Kevin Slowey pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 3-0 win, allowing just three hits and striking out nine while not issuing a walk. And Matt Garza picked up the loss in Rochester's 4-0 loss in Game 2. Garza pitched five innings giving up three runs, two earned, on six hits while walking two and striking out five. Twins tidbits: The Twins have 34 doubles on the season, tying them for second most in the Majors. ... Twins' starters have gone 7-4 with a 4.05 ERA through 14 games this season. ... Heading into Thursday's contest against the Mariners, Luis Castillo had not committed an error since May 29, 2006, a span of 112 games and 987 2/3 innings. Coming up: The Twins head to Kansas City for the start of a three-game series this weekend at Kauffman Stadium. Game 1 of the series takes place Friday night in a 7:10 p.m. CT start and features Twins right-hander Sidney Ponson facing off against Royals left-hander Odalis Perez.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.