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Healthy Morneau being cautious with his optimism

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has been around baseball long enough to know just about every cliche in the book.

So the 10-year veteran wasn't exactly going to take the bait at TwinsFest on Friday, when he was asked if this is the best he's felt in an offseason.

"I feel strong, but I'm not going to use the cliche of 'It's the best I've ever felt' or 'I'm in the best shape of my life' or whatever," Morneau said. "But I feel good and feel like I have in the past to help me prepare."

Morneau, though, said he's been able to have a normal offseason for the first time in several years, as he's past the concussion symptoms that plagued him since his collision at second base in Toronto in July 2010.

He said his surgically repaired left wrist took a little time to calm down after the season, but it hasn't bothered him since he started his offseason regimen in early November.

So now Morneau is looking to regain the form that made him an All-Star for four seasons and the American League Most Valuable Player in 2006.

"I don't see why not," said Morneau, who turns 32 in May. "I'm not 38 or 39 or 40. It's something that I expect. I'm still young enough to produce and to produce the way I expect myself to. I don't feel like I'm too far off. I had a little rough start last year, but if you stretch it out to 162 games or 158 games or whatever it is, you get in that full season, those numbers aren't too far off. I don't see why I can't get back to that point."

Morneau had a bounce-back year in 2012, hitting .267 with 19 homers and 77 RBIs in 134 games. It was the most games he played in since appearing in 135 games in 2009.

But he was still bothered by his wrist for most of the season -- sapping his power -- and was coming off surgeries to his neck, left knee and right foot.

And considering the Twins lost 96 games to finish with the worst record in the American League for a second straight year, Morneau isn't exactly looking at last season with rose-colored glasses.

"We finished in last," Morneau said. "As we've found out before, personal success doesn't matter if the team doesn't do well. I'm not ever happy just to play. Obviously, being out there is good, but I want to be successful. So it's a hard way to gauge it. So, yes, I'm glad I was able to play. But am I happy with the year? Definitely not. It's one of those things where, yeah, it's good, but I expect more and I expect better."

Morneau, who has just one year left on the six-year, $80 million deal he signed in '08, also added he's trying to keep the trade talk out of his head.

He believes the Twins can compete in the AL Central after adding Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia to a rotation that finished with the second-worst ERA in the AL last season.

"I'm not going to look on the negative side of it," Morneau said. "I'd rather think that we're adding players at the deadline at this point than trading anybody. That stuff will be out of my control when it does come about. Whenever the deadline comes, that won't really be up to me. It's something where we're hopefully playing well enough where we're adding players and don't even have to think about that."

So, for now, Morneau is working toward staying healthy in '13 and has the World Baseball Classic to look forward to this spring. He'll be playing for Team Canada for the third time in his career.

"It should be fun," Morneau said. "It's always good to hang out with the Canadian boys. It's a good experience. It's a nice little break from Spring Training, which is nice."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

Minnesota Twins, Justin Morneau