Morneau set to begin rehab assignment

Left-handed hitter's time with Triple-A Charlotte should be final test before joining White Sox

Morneau set to begin rehab assignment

HOUSTON -- Justin Morneau begins his rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Charlotte in what figures to be the left-handed-hitting veteran's final test before joining the White Sox sometime shortly after the All-Star break.

"I'm sure I'll be nervous to be out there and let it fly in a game, but it will be interesting," Morneau said in between his Sunday workouts at Minute Maid Park. "Like I've talked about before, it's less controlled when a guy is actually trying to get me out, not trying to get me to hit it.

"It will be a few tests that will have to be passed along the way. Everything has gone well so far, so I don't see why it would be any different at this point."

Morneau, 35, joined the White Sox via a one-year, $1 million deal with incentives on June 9 and continued his recovery from offseason surgery to repair the primary flexor in his left elbow. He has done work with the team, making the road trips and getting acclimated before he comes back from the Minor League assignment.

"To know the guys before, instead of just showing up in the middle and stepping in the lineup, having that comfort level of being around the guys -- taking a few trips and on the road is when you really spend a lot more time together," Morneau said.

"At home, it's a little different. Everyone has their families there, and they come to the ballpark and leave. When you're on the road, you get to know each other, card games on the plane and that kind of stuff. It's a situation, I'm glad it worked out this way to be able to spend some time and feel good around the guys."

Charlotte has three home games against Pawtucket and four against Gwinnett prior to the International League All-Star break, which coincides with the Major League All-Star break. Morneau previously said 30 at-bats would be what he guesses as the minimum necessary with the Knights, which means a return to the White Sox is possible during their road trip to Anaheim and Seattle to start the second half.

"The problem we'll run into is the All-Star break," Morneau said. "At that point I possibly could be ready, but it wouldn't make sense to take the four days off after that. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

"Could I be ready in a week? I don't know, but it wouldn't make sense, even if we tried to rush, to be ready in a week and then have four days off. We'll see what it feels like tomorrow, and we'll take it one day at a time."

Adding a left-handed bat to the lineup would be a great benefit for the White Sox, especially one who captured the National League batting title two years ago.

"Right now, we're using the two catchers so you can do that," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "His presence in the lineup becomes a bit different than the other guys. He's always been a valuable bat in the middle of the lineup. That's not going to change."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.