Morneau focusing on wins over contract status

Now-healthy slugger in final year of six-year deal with Twins

Morneau focusing on wins over contract status

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After 10 seasons with the Twins, it's hard for Justin Morneau to imagine himself in a different uniform.

But Morneau is headed into the last year of a six-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2008, and knows this could be his last season in Minnesota.

He hasn't been approached by the Twins about a contract extension and his agents at SFX haven't pursued one yet, either, as he sounds willing to let the season play out.

"I think from their side and my side they want to see where I'm at," said Morneau, who made his first appearance at Twins camp on Friday. "The last few years, there have been some difficulties with all the injuries and all that stuff. It's not something I'm really interested in doing during the season, because it can become a distraction. But I'll never say never.

"It's something where the future looks good with the prospects list and what we have coming and all that stuff. I want to win, obviously, and so that's the important thing. If it looks like there's a chance we're going to win, I'd love to stay here. I've been here my whole career and this is where I hope to be in the future. It's hard to say otherwise. But sometimes those decisions aren't yours. So, we'll see. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Morneau is also aware that he could become trade bait before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline if he's healthy and producing and the Twins are out of contention.

But he believes this roster is stronger than last year -- when the club finished in last place by going 66-96 -- and doesn't want to think about the prospect of being traded by the only club he's ever known.

"I'll let all that stuff play out," Morneau said. "I'm hoping we'll be making additions at the Trade Deadline instead of worrying about who we're trading. So until that comes along and it's proved otherwise, we plan on being a team that's going to battle and be in it in July and add whatever we need."

Instead, Morneau wants to focus on staying healthy, as he's battled a litany of injury problems the last several years, including his well-documented issues stemming from his concussion sustained in July 2010, as well as surgeries to his neck, left wrist, left knee and right foot in '11.

But Morneau was able to get through what he called a normal offseason, as he said he's past all of those injuries and is healthy heading into the season.

"I feel prepared coming in, which is nice," said Morneau, who estimated he weighs about eight or nine more pounds than he did at this point last year. "It was good to enjoy the offseason and do what I needed to do. It feels good."

Morneau showed some positive signs last season, when he hit .267/.333/.449 with 19 homers, 26 doubles and 77 RBIs in 134 games, which was the most games he's played since appearing in 135 games in '09.

But his surgically-repaired wrist bothered him throughout the season, and now that it's healed, he's excited to see what he can do.

"I've been swinging and everything has been good so far," Morneau said. "Hopefully it's something that's in the past and just move on and play and not have to worry about that kind of stuff."

Morneau also has higher expectations for the Twins, as he's been frustrated by their struggles the last two seasons.

The Twins tried to fix their biggest weakness from last season -- starting pitching -- by signing veterans such as Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia while also trading for Vance Worley and top prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May.

But Minnesota also traded Denard Span and Ben Revere in their quest to add pitching, and now have to find a new center fielder and leadoff hitter to bat in front of established bats such as Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit and Morneau.

Morneau, though, said he doesn't buy in that this is a rebuilding year despite those trades, as he said the Twins have been known to exceed expectations before their sudden dropoff the last two years.

"We've been picked to finish fourth before, and we've won the division," Morneau said. "And we've been picked to win, and we've finished third. It's hard to say. You get a little confidence with some young players, you get some momentum going, and it can take off in a hurry. I've been around long enough to know that anything is possible, and I have no reason not to believe that. The other teams can do what they do, but if we take care of what we do, we should be right there with those teams."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.