CLEVELAND -- Justin Morneau stands two years away from winning a National League batting title and one year removed from hitting .310, albeit in 182 plate appearances with the Rockies.So his comeback attempt with the White Sox is steeped in the belief that he will be able to contribute upon
CLEVELAND -- Justin Morneau stands two years away from winning a National League batting title and one year removed from hitting .310, albeit in 182 plate appearances with the Rockies.
So his comeback attempt with the White Sox is steeped in the belief that he will be able to contribute upon getting healthy.
"Yeah, I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe that," said Morneau before Friday's 3-2 White Sox loss against the Indians at Progressive Field. "I was surprised the first day I hit off the tee, how the swing felt good and felt close to where I wanted it to be.
"It's the reason I'm here, to try to help and contribute. I'm not here just to have fun or to try to maybe help out the younger hitters. If I wanted to do that, I would coach. It's one of those things I still have a fire and desire to do well and to compete."
Morneau, who is on the disabled list to continue recovering from offseason surgery to repair the primary flexor in his left elbow, started to hit off of a tee Monday. Flips begin this Monday in Boston, followed by batting practice on the field.
A Minor League rehab assignment remains targeted for July, and Morneau has talked about joining the White Sox after the All-Star break.
"Everything is going good so far," Morneau said.
"He can hit for power, he can hit for average," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Morneau. "A lefty presence behind a righty bat lengthens our lineup. He's a smart hitter as well. Playing against him the last few years, you can see what he brings to the table. You didn't want him coming up in big situations. He seems to get the barrel on it and do some damage."
Agreeing to a one-year, $1 million deal with incentives June 9 left Morneau without a Spring Training to get to know his teammates. So it's important to the veteran to be part of the team, traveling with the White Sox and rehabbing.
"Obviously joining a team in the middle of the year is difficult," Morneau said. "You go through Spring Training and get to know each other a lot. You spend a lot of time together, so that's kind of why I wanted to come on the road.
"Just feel a little more comfortable with my teammates. Feel like you are part of the team instead of off on your own doing your own thing. Hopefully I can help out in any way I can, even for my own sake to feel comfortable around the guys."
After playing 11 seasons for the Twins, Morneau has spoken about the strangeness of suiting up for their American League Central rival. He said the first trip to Minnesota for him, from July 29-31, will be the real test for that change.
"There are a lot of guys who have been around. Mostly veteran group with a few young players that bring the excitement," said Morneau of the White Sox. "It's a close team. It's what I missed while I was at home watching on TV."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.