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With Morneau at Classic, Clement gets reps at first


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- With first basemen Justin Morneau and Chris Colabello in Arizona for the World Baseball Classic, Jeff Clement is expected to get plenty of reps at first base in their absences.

Clement was in the starting lineup on Sunday against the Rays despite the fact that the left-handed hitter is going up against left-hander David Price.

"I don't really have a right-handed first baseman," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I put Clement over there, it's not that fair. But you might as well see if he can hit that guy, too."

Gardenhire said he's been impressed by Clement so far in camp, as he's been working with former manager Tom Kelly almost every day to improve his defense at first base.

"He's doing very well," Gardenhire said. "Since he's been in this camp, the improvement at first base has been unbelievable. He came in a little stiff, but has been working really hard at it. T.K. has spent a lot of time with him over there. And he's put some good swings on the ball, so I think he's comfortable over here."

Clement also could be used as an emergency catcher, as the Marshalltown, Iowa, native was originally drafted as a catcher out of the University of Southern California by the Mariners as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

Utility infielder Eduardo Escobar is also expected to catch bullpens this spring and could even be used in a game at catcher late in spring to prepare himself as an emergency catcher this season.

"You're going to probably see Escobar come into a game [at catcher]." Gardenhire said. "He's the third catcher guy, and we'll see how it goes. We're trying to figure out that position. Mr. Clement might do it."

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