After spending eight months on the sidelines following a concussion last July the Twins have their cleanup hitter back, as manager Ron Gardenhire announced today that Justin Morneau will be in the Opening Day lineup when Minnesota kicks off the season in Toronto tomorrow night.
Gardenhire told reporters that he plans to give Morneau frequent days off early in the season, which the Twins are uniquely positioned to do thanks to Jim Thome’s presence on the bench. On days Morneau doesn’t start Thome will be in the lineup at designated hitter, Jason Kubel will move to right field, and Michael Cuddyer will take over at first base.
That’s the arrangement the Twins used in the second half last season with Morneau on the disabled list, but it’ll be interesting to see how Gardenhire finds playing time for Thome and his 1.039 OPS if Morneau proves healthy enough to play nearly every day. One of Kubel, Cuddyer, or Delmon Young would have to be on the bench.
The Reds picked up outfielders Mason Williams and Rosell Herrera on minor league deals, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Both Williams and Herrera will receive invites to spring training and could compete for backup outfield roles behind Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler.
Williams, 26, completed a three-year track with the Yankees in 2017. He has yet to see a full season of playing time, however, and went 4-for-17 with two stolen bases during a five-game span with the club in 2017. While not a power hitter, his speed and steady contact rate produced a .263/.309/.318 batting line over 437 plate appearances in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, including two home runs, three triples and 19 stolen bases.
Herrera, 25, has yet to make his big league debut. After seven years in the Rockies’ system, he finally reached Triple-A Albuquerque in 2017 and slashed .278/.351/.394 with three home runs and 20 stolen bases in 363 PA. He looks most comfortable in the left field corner, but has some experience at shortstop and third base and should give the Reds a nice utility option come spring.