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Twins showing interest in Morneau return

Chicago White Sox designated hitter Justin Morneau (44) hits an RBI double during the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago last September. Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS—Having already brought back three of their most popular players in front-office roles this winter, could Justin Morneau be next for the Twins?

According to a person with direct knowledge, there is mutual interest in a reunion with the veteran first baseman, who intends to return for a 15th big-league season in 2017. The trouble is finding enough at-bats to make it worthwhile for either side.

"I actually talked to him the other day," newly minted Twins hall of famer Michael Cuddyer said at TwinsFest. "He's doing well. He's preparing his body to play. Obviously, there are still a lot of bats out there on the market. He'd like to play, but you've got to find a job."

Cuddyer, one of those three alumni additions to the front office, played for many seasons with Morneau on both the Twins and the Colorado Rockies. That included both 2014, when Morneau won the National League batting title, and 2006, when he claimed American League MVP honors with the Twins.

Morneau, who turns 36 in May, missed the first four months of last season following surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left (non-throwing) elbow. He signed a one-year deal with the Chicago White Sox for $1 million plus incentives, and also pocketed $750,000 after the Rockies bought out his option.

He figures to accept a similar deal this time around, especially with a glut of designated hitter types still available through free agency.

In 58 games and 218 plate appearances with the White Sox, Morneau hit .261 with six home runs, 14 doubles and 25 runs batted in. His on-base percentage was just .303 but he slugged .429, including a surprising .528 mark against left-handed pitching (37 plate appearances).

Twins manager Paul Molitor recently noted he plans to give first baseman Joe Mauer even more breaks against lefties this season, which could lead to more work in the field for South Korean slugger Byung Ho Park. Molitor did reference Morneau, however, in citing those unaffected by platoon splits.

"If you go back to the Morneau/Mauer days," Molitor said, "those guys hit lefties like they hit righties."