Twins Slam Rays, Hellickson 19-4

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Justin Morneau’s first two spring training home runs of the year left him in a good frame of mind.

“The swing is starting to feel a lot better,” the former AL MVP said Saturday after the Minnesota Twins routed the Tampa Bay Rays 19-4. “It’s not going to be a day like that every day, but you have good days, and it’s good to have one of those days now and get the confidence going. Hopefully we continue it and keep swinging the bat.”

The 2006 AL MVP was limited to 81 games in 2010 and 69 last year due to concussion symptoms and operations on his neck, left wrist, left knee and right foot.

He entered Saturday 4 for 37 (.108) with two RBIs in spring training but hit a two-run homer in the first and a three-run drive in the fourth, both off AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson.

“We’re all competitive,” Morneau said. “We’re all athletes. We’ve all been successful in the past, otherwise none of us would be in this room. Obviously you want to be there at once, but I think it helps that I’ve been around for a while now and know that, if I’m healthy, I trust myself that it’s going to come.”

Morneau has been mostly a designated hitter lately. He’s hoping to return soon to first base, but he knows staying out of the infield is giving him the time to work on his swing and build strength his wrist after surgery.

“It’s one of those things where I’m pretty familiar with most of the hitters in our league and kind of know positioning and all the rest of it,” Morneau said. “A couple days would be nice. But I don’t think it’s do or die.”

Minnesota had 14 runs and 14 hits through the first four innings.

“That was great,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire of Morneau. “It’s just getting more comfortable and able to take all these swings because his body’s feeling good and can handle the workload.”

Luke Hughes went 5-for-5 with a home run and two doubles.

Hellickson gave up 10 runs and 11 hits — including three home runs — in three innings. He entered having allowed seven runs and nine hits through his first seven innings.

“I think I was just missing, coming back over the plate, and I was falling behind a lot,” he said. “They were seeing the ball good today, and I just made some bad pitches.”

NOTES: Jamey Carroll had three hits and a double. J.R. Towles and Chris Parmelee also homered for the Twins. … Chris Gimenez hit a solo home run to lead the Rays.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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