Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 3/20/12
PROJECTED STARTER Justin Morneau, .227 BA, 4 HRs, 30 RBIs in 2011 Justin Morneau has only played a total of 150 games over the last two seasons combined. A concussion cut his 2010 season short -- just 81 games -- after he posted All-Star numbers. One year later, Morneau played just 69 games due to multiple ailments, including neck surgery and another concussion. In 2009, he missed the end of the season due to a back injury. The Twins are hoping Morneau can stay healthy this season -- and that he can find his swing again. A year ago, Morneau's .227 average was his lowest since he played 40 games in 2003, his first year in the majors. His power was gone, too -- his .333 slugging percentage was easily the lowest of his nine-year career. Morneau won the American League MVP in 2006 when he batted .321 with 34 homers and 130 RBIs in 157 games. He was on pace for a potential MVP-caliber season in 2010 before his concussion, as he was batting .345 and had 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 81 games. But he was hit in the head while sliding into second base during a game against Toronto on July 7. So far this spring, Morneau is batting .100 (3-for-30) after Monday's game against Boston. The numbers might not be encouraging, but Morneau insists he's not concerned just yet. "I think we leave three weeks from today, so that's a lot of at-bats between now and then," Morneau said last Wednesday after going 0-for-5 against the Phillies. "Probably the last 10 days, I think, are the most important. Obviously, it'd be nice to be getting hits right now, but it's not my first spring training. I've had good ones before. I've had bad ones before. As long as it's there towards the end, that's all that really matters." In order to get his timing back, Morneau has volunteered to take long bus rides to road games this spring. The important thing right now is that Morneau is on the field and getting plenty of at-bats following a 2011 that consisted of surgeries on his neck, knee and foot. "It's about health. He's got that now," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He's just out there hitting. He's the one that wanted to hit again. He wanted more at-bats. Just get him as many as we can, be smart about it and we'll go from there." PROJECTED BACKUPS Ryan Doumit, .303 BA, 8 HRs, 30 RBIs in 2011 (with Pittsburgh); Chris Parmelee, .355 BA, 4 HR, 14 RBIs in 2011 (21 games); Joe Mauer, .424 BA, 7 RBIs in 17 games at 1B After Morneau, the Twins' backup situation will likely be a platoon at first base. Minnesota signed Doumit this offseason as a backup catcher, but he has also played 32 games at first base during his seven seasons in Pittsburgh. Mauer, the Twins' star catcher, made his first-ever start at first base last season when Morneau was hurt and ended up playing 17 games there. He looked like a natural at the position -- making several nice defensive plays during his limited time at first -- and has spent some time there again this spring. Parmelee made his major league debut in September of last year and was impressive in 21 games. He made the jump from Double A to the majors last season and has yet to play at Triple A, so it remains to be seen where he will start the season. So far this spring, Parmelee has batted .308 with two homers and five RBIs in 10 games. One of those homers came off Phillies ace Roy Halladay last week. "Right now, I'm just going up there and trying to have a good AB," Parmelee said after his homer off Halladay. "That's the most important thing in spring training, is just making sure you see the ball and getting yourself in a good count to put a good swing on it." OTHER AL CENTRAL STARTERS Prince Fielder (Tigers); Eric Hosmer (Royals); Paul Konerko (White Sox); Casey Kotchman (Indians). The biggest news made in the AL Central this offseason was the signing of first baseman Prince Fielder by the Detroit Tigers. After spending seven years with the Milwaukee Brewers, Fielder joined the Tigers as a free agent by signing a nine-year, 214 million contact. Detroit was already chosen by many as the frontrunner to win the division this year, but the acquisition of Fielder put them over the top. Fielder played all 162 games for the Brewers last season and batted .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs. He's hit 30 or more homers for the past five seasons, and led the league with 141 RBIs in 2009. He's also played at least 157 games each season since 2006, his first full year in the majors. Hosmer made his major league debut with Kansas City last season and batted .293 with 19 homers and 78 RBIs in 128 games. He's one of the Royals' top young talents. Konerko might be 36, but he earned his fifth All-Star selection last season when he batted .300 with 105 RBIs, 31 homers and a .517 slugging percentage. Kotchman signed as a free agent with the Indians this offseason after eight seasons with five different teams. He batted .306 with 48 RBIs in 146 games with Tampa Bay last season. Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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