Minnesota Twins' Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau Looking To Be Ready for Spring

Matt BuschCorrespondent IIIFebruary 2, 2011

Nathan looks to bounce back to form in 2011.
Nathan looks to bounce back to form in 2011.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins won the American League Central last season despite injuries to some of their biggest stars.

Joe Nathan, an All-Star closer, was lost after a significant tear in the ulnar collateral ligament forced him into Tommy John surgery last March.

From 2004-2009, Nathan was one of the most dominating closers in all of baseball. Nathan's 246 saves over six seasons are the most in the majors during that span.

The 36-year-old Nathan is in the final season of a four year, $47 million dollar contract that pays him $11.25 million this season with a club option for $12.5 million for 2012.

Nathan is expecting to start back up from where he left off in 2009, as the Twins' closer.

"My mind-set right now is that I'm closing and getting ready for the season. That's my plan. We'll see how it goes. There's always going to be a question mark," said Nathan.

Another big question mark is the health of 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau.

Morneau missed the second half of the 2010 season after suffering a concussion July 7 in Toronto while sliding into second base.

General manager of the Twins Bill Smith spoke on the health of Joe Nathan to a local ESPN radio affiliate in Minneapolis: "It's still a work in progress. He is not 100 percent, but I've talked to his doctors, I've talked to him. He's getting better all the time, he's doing very good workouts."

Morneau still hasn't been cleared to fly on an airplane and was given instructions to stay in Arizona and to skip the annual "Twinsfest" this past weekend in Minnesota.

Michael Cuddyer has filled in for Morneau the last two playoff runs for the Twins, and with Jim Thome re-signing two weeks ago, Jason Kubel could shift to RF should Morneau not be ready to go.

The Twins will be hoping that Morneau will be manning first base for them come April. Last season, before the concussion, he was hitting .345 with 18 HR and 56 RBI in only 81 games played.