MINNEAPOLIS — If Justin Morneau plays baseball again in 2017, he’d like to be more than just a designated hitter.
By design the veteran has only been a DH since he joined the White Sox after the All-Star break in mid-July. In a rush to get Morneau’s bat into the lineup, the White Sox got the first baseman ready in a hurry as he rehabbed from elbow surgery. The 10-day minor league stint didn’t afford Morneau much time for conditioning and as a result he hasn’t yet appeared in the field. But if he does return next season and goes through spring training, Morneau — who sat for a second straight game on Sunday — wouldn’t mind a temporary distraction from DH.
“There’s times when it just feels good to get out there,” Morneau said. “I think sometimes DHing becomes difficult when you start thinking about your at-bats too much. Sometimes it’s just a good distraction to play in the field and to do those kind of things. Having the chance to go through a spring training and get out there a couple of innings at a time and get more comfortable, that would make a big difference.”
It’s still possible that Morneau could see some time in the field this season. But at this point, Morneau said he’d best suited if that appearance was limited to a few innings rather than an entire game. Early on, Morneau battled some stamina issues that he normally wouldn’t have had he had an entire spring training worth of conditioning.
“I think I could get through a game,” Morneau said. “The problem is the next couple of days after that where you could run into problems.
“It’s kind of hard when you jump into it in the middle.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he has considered using Morneau at first. But based off how the normal wear and tear has affected him, Ventura thinks Morneau is better suited if the bulk of his playing time comes as a DH this season.
“We flirted with the idea of having him play first base, but the more you realize it, it’s better to have him DH,” Ventura said. “He was going against the clock. Even though you work out, he didn’t have spring training. Little things he didn’t have the normal player that prepares wouldn’t be going through. He’s done a lot of sprints that can wear on you. He’s fine, just give him a couple days to regroup.”
Morneau spends roughly two hours each day preparing to play with 45-60 minutes dedicated to his surgically repaired elbow. Because he’s not playing first base, Morneau spends a great deal of time in game staying loose. He has the routine down. But going through spring training would help even more, he said.
“You get your legs underneath you (in spring) and that’s sort of what I was fighting when I came back because I didn’t have the normal two at-bats, day off, two at-bats, day off. It was basically every day and go out there after about 10 days and try to hit major league pitching. It took a little while to get my legs underneath me.”