While they’d love to have him in the lineup soon, the White Sox haven’t set any kind of target date for Justin Morneau.
It’s totally possible the veteran first baseman could be ready for the team’s second-half opener in Anaheim, Calif., next Friday. And it’s just as conceivable that Morneau — who has 13 plate appearances at Triple-A Charlotte through Thursday — may need more time to feel comfortable enough to face major league pitching.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura conceded Friday that it’s difficult to pinpoint when Morneau, who had elbow surgery in December, would be ready. Last month, Morneau said he thought he’d need at least 30 plate appearances — a number he potentially could reach by the middle of next week.
“That one is pretty tricky,” Ventura said. “It’s really dependent on him and how he feels. The guy hasn’t played in a year and you are asking him to condense it down as fast as he can go. You don’t really know where that is. You look at spring training and how many at-bats guys get. Guys get close to 50 at-bats, if not more. You don’t know where he’s going to be where his comfort level is.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
The White Sox host the Atlanta Braves this weekend before breaking for the All-Star Game. They resume action in a week in Southern California. From Anaheim the team travels to Seattle for a three-game series.
The early signs from Morneau’s assignment have mostly been positive.
Morneau, who tripled Thursday and is 2-for-11 through four games, said his early focus is all about working on timing and maintaining a healthy elbow. Results don’t matter at this point, he said Monday.
The former Minnesota Twins slugger played his fifth straight game for Charlotte on Friday and is scheduled to play Saturday, too.
Morneau will then travel south on Sunday to meet up with Double-A Birmingham and continue his rehab assignment as Charlotte is off next week for the Triple-A All-Star Game. Assuming he received four plate appearances per game, Morneau could reach 30 by Wednesday.
Whereas Ventura originally said Monday he thought it was overly optimistic Morneau might join the team in Anaheim, the possibility may exist. Still, given all the variables involved, the White Sox have pumped the brakes so as to make sure that Morneau is ready to go when he joins the team.
“He’s doing fine,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “We’ll see. It’s been four days.”