Justin Morneau is feeling great for the first time in years

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This is highly encouraging. After three years of post-concussion syndrome, back trouble and other ailments, Justin Morneau tells Phil Mackey of ESPN radio that he’s feeling great, working out hard this offseason and is ready for an old-school Justin Morneau season:

“I’m feeling good, feeling strong, building strength instead of just doing rehab like I’ve done the last two winters — not recovering from surgery, but actually building toward the goal of getting strong and being ready for spring training and being ready early for that World Baseball Classic.”

Morneau played almost a full season last year — his only time lost was due to a wrist problem unrelated to past woes — but he wasn’t really his old self. And maybe we never see that old Justin Morneau again.  But the fact that he’s able to work out hard without all of the caveats and equivocations of the past — he’s not saying things like “I hope to be ready” as we’ve heard before — is excellent news.

A.J. Hinch responds to Ken Giles’ negative comments about Astros

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On Sunday, Blue Jays closer Ken Giles spoke to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star. Giles said, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston.” Giles won a World Series with the Astros last year, but talked about communication issues with the Astros and compared them unfavorably to the Blue Jays. Giles described the communication as having been “lost” and credited the Jays for staying patient with him.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch responded to Giles’ comments on Monday. Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Hinch said:

I think he’s wrong and I’m disappointed that he would go down that path given how much work and time and energy and communication that our front office, our coaching staff, me, we all went through this with him. And I understand, there was some disappointment in his tenure as an Astro because of the turbulent way things went about. We gave him every opportunity, we communicated with him effectively, we have an incredible culture where every single player will tell you it’s one of the best cultures they’ve had, one of the best communication envrionments they’ve had. They all know their roles. They all know their situations. To have one person out of all the guys in our clubhouse come out and claim otherwise is flat wrong.

While Giles certainly could be embellishing or deliberately misconstruing his time there, Hinch’s rebuttal doesn’t actually disqualify anything Giles said. Giles certainly could have had a negative experience in Houston even if everyone else was enjoying the “incredible culture” and “one of the best communication environments.”

Given how the Astros — including Hinch — responded to criticism about their acquiring an accused domestic abuser, they’re not in the best position to boast about an “incredible culture” anyway.

At any rate, this is a he-said, he-said situation. If anything more comes of it, it will be Giles further torching a bridge.