Last week the Twins called up first baseman-DH Justin Morneau
from Triple A Rochester, and it was immediately clear that they
had little intention of babying their prize hitting prospect.
Facing major league pitching for the first time, the 22-year-old
Morneau, who had only 37 games of experience above the Double A
level, batted cleanup for the AL Central leaders and hit .350
with two RBIs in five games.
The 6'4", 225-pound Morneau had two of Minnesota's
three hits in his debut (getting a standing ovation when he lined
a single to center in his first at bat), and he went 3 for 4 and
drove in a run the next night. In 57 games with Double A New
Britain and Triple A Rochester this season the New Westminster,
B.C., native hit a combined .309 with 19 homers (second most in
the minor leagues at that point in the season).
One knock on Morneau is that he's still learning how to play
first. He was drafted by Minnesota as a catcher out of high
school in 1999 but shifted to first base in his first full year
in the minors. The Twins' Doug Mientkiewicz is one of the
best fielding first basemen in the AL, but he has never hit more
than 15 homers in a season. Mientkiewicz, who is up for salary
arbitration after this season, worked out at third base last
week, opening the door for Morneau to play some at first.
COLOR PHOTO: VINCENT MUZIK (MORNEAU) Called up last week, Morneau took an instant liking--7 for 20--to major league pitching.