According to Twins GM Bill Smith, first baseman Justin Morneau has started working out, and should be ready to swing a bat by February 1st.
"Well he called the other day and I had a great talk with him. I hadn’t talked with him in probably a month and he told me that he has had a real good week of workouts. He said he pushed it, I think he said - this was Monday night - so he said on Friday he pushed it about as hard as he can in any workout and he didn’t have any problems. And that’s a great thing for us."This is great news for the Twins. Last season, Morneau was having an MVP quality season when a concussion derailed his (and one of my fantasy baseball teams) season just prior to the All-Star break. Typically, players return fairly quickly (anywhere from 2-4 weeks) from concussions. Unfortunately for Morneau and the Twins, his symptoms persisted, and he never made back on to the field. After several months of recovery, Morneau appears to be on the "up-and-up" and on the verge of resuming baseball activities a few weeks ahead of schedule.
Usually, teams have trouble replacing a player that produced a .447 wOBA and 5.3 WAR in 81 games, but not the Twins. Instead, they made the appropriate adjustments, put up a 48-32 record over the course of the rest of the season, and surpassed the White Sox and Tigers to secure their sixth division title nine years. Still, even with the success they had last season without Morneau, the Twins are a much better team with him both in the lineup and on the field. Their second half performance was largely unsustainable when you consider that (a) the replacement defensive alignment the Twins sent out to the field was simply atrocious, and (b) the Twins received huge offensive production out of 40 year old slugger Jim Thome, who likely will not give an encore performance in 2011.
Hopefully, Morneau continues to recover as expected. With him in the lineup, the Twins will be the odds on favorite to secure their seventh division title in ten years. If he's not, they might end up being a 75-80 win team.