Morneau moves up in Twins' lineup shift

Morneau moves up in Twins' lineup shift

Justin Morneau spent all 163 games of the 2008 season batting in the cleanup spot.

But on Friday against the White Sox, the Twins first baseman found himself in an unfamiliar place in the batting order -- the No. 3 hole.

Morneau had just 17 plate appearances hitting third in his Major League career coming into Friday's game and hadn't hit in the third spot since the 2005 season.

But after the Twins failed to score a single run in Thursday's series finale against the Mariners, manager Ron Gardenhire decided that it was time to try moving his first baseman up in the lineup.

"Why not?" Gardenhire said before Friday's contest against the White Sox. "Just try to move people around and see what happens. You never know. ... We didn't exactly light it up yesterday and we haven't scored a lot of runs yet."

"Yet" was the key word as the Twins managed to score a dozen runs against Chicago on Friday night.

A big part of that scoring binge was thanks to Morneau, as he delivered four RBIs on the night.

"He came up in some big situations and he had more opportunities, too," Gardenhire said of his first baseman. "I think that's what you're looking for, to keep him in situations where he has a chance to drive in runs. That's what he does best."

In addition to moving Morneau up, Michael Cuddyer was moved down to the fifth spot with Jason Kubel batting cleanup. Cuddyer didn't have good numbers against starter Jose Contreras coming into the contest, and that played a factor in Gardenhire's decision to move him down in the lineup.

But the question remains whether Morneau will be back in the No. 3 spot on Saturday against the White Sox. And based on his production the one night in the spot, might he stay there until catcher Joe Mauer returns from the disabled list?

"If we can figure out where in the lineup to keep him, that's a good thing," Gardenhire said. "[On Friday], it worked out."

Pitching matchup
MIN: LHP Francisco Liriano (0-1, 5.14 ERA)
Liriano didn't walk away with a win in his first career Opening Day outing, but the Twins were pleased with what they saw from the left-hander. He was able to pitch seven innings, allowing four runs on four hits. His trouble was limited to a couple of mistake pitches, including a hanging slider that he left up for Ken Griffey Jr. to hit for a home run. Liriano will face his first road test of the season when he takes on the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. The lefty is 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA in two contests there.

CWS: RHP Bartolo Colon (0-0, -.-- ERA)
Colon was as durable as any starter on the White Sox staff when he threw nine complete games for the team back in 2003. But after having bone chips removed from his pitching elbow in October, the White Sox don't expect a lot of nine-inning efforts from the burly right-hander. Colon made seven starts for the Red Sox last year but has made just 35 starts over the past three seasons combined. Colon's velocity topped out in the low 90s during his Cactus League starts.

Bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek made the trip to Chicago with the Twins, but he will not be back at work until Wednesday. Stelmaszek, a Chicago native, was cleared by the doctors to work on Friday, but Gardenhire said he'll give him a few extra days to make sure that he's feeling good and has no relapses. Jim Shellenback, who will be the pitching coach at rookie league Elizabethton this year, is filling in as the bullpen coach in the meantime. ... On Friday, Morneau hit his 17th home run against the White Sox. It's his most vs. any opponent. ... Brian Duensing made his Major League debut in Friday night's game.

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Up next
• Sunday: Twins (Nick Blackburn, 0-0, 7.20) at White Sox (Mark Buehrle, 0-0, 3.60), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Twins (Kevin Slowey, 1-0, 7.50) vs. Blue Jays (Jesse Litsch, 0-1, 7.50), 7:10 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Twins (Glen Perkins, 0-1, 1.13) vs. Blue Jays (Ricky Romero, 1-0, 3.00), 7:10 p.m. CT

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.