NEW YORK -- After nine straight starts as the designated hitter to start the season, Justin Morneau made his first start at first base this year on Monday against the Yankees, and went 2-for-5 with a homer in the Twins' 7-3 win.
Morneau was originally approached by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire about batting fifth in the lineup behind Josh Willingham, but Morneau countered by telling his manager he was ready to give first base a shot.
"It seemed like a good time," Morneau said before the game. "It's something I've been shooting for, and I think the longer I wait, the more difficult it's going to be to find that rhythm and all the rest of it. So, obviously, the goal is to be playing every day, or close to every day, by the end of the year. It's going to be gradual; but may as well start now, I guess."
Morneau last played first base on March 13 in Spring Training, but his last regular-season start at first came on Aug. 28, 2011. He ended up re-aggravating concussion-like symptoms with a diving play during that game and didn't play the rest of the season.
There's still no plan for when Morneau will get his next start at first base, as he's expected to sit on Tuesday, with left-hander CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees. But the Twins want to give him some starts at first leading up to their Interleague series in Milwaukee from May 18-20.
"We're just going to go day by day with it," Gardenhire said. "It's not going to be starting every day right now, do it and let him go back to DH. What I do like about it is it gives me options to give Joe Mauer a day to DH and nothing in the field."
Mauer made his first start of the year at DH on Monday, but the big news was the decision to split up Mauer and Morneau in the lineup. The last time they didn't bat consecutively was April 4, 2008, when Mauer batted second and Morneau hit fourth, and the last time they batted third and fifth was Sept. 29, 2007.
"He said it was about breaking up the lefties, it makes them make a decision with relievers," Morneau said about his conversation with Gardenhire. "He didn't say anything about it, but I'm sure it has something to do with how good Willingham's swinging the bat, too. Joe hasn't really been getting a lot to hit, so for now it makes sense. It doesn't matter to me; as long as I'm in the lineup and whatever gives us the best chance to win."
Mauer doubled in his first at-bat Monday and scored on Willingham's RBI single to get the Twins on the board first. Mauer ended up going 3-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base.
Morneau followed later with a single in his first at-bat before hitting a solo homer in the sixth. He also was robbed of an extra-base hit by Curtis Granderson on a ball hit to deep center in the seventh.
"I was happy with Morneau at first base," Gardenhire said. "He played nice over there. I talked to him after the game, and he felt really good. He played good out there, and that's important. He dove for a ball [in the seventh] without any problems. That's important for our baseball team."
MRI reveals forearm inflammation for Perkins
NEW YORK -- Twins reliever Glen Perkins complained of forearm soreness after his outing on Sunday, and he stayed back in Minnesota to undergo an MRI exam on Monday.
But the Twins received good news, as the MRI exam revealed only inflammation, according to Twins general manager Terry Ryan.
"He described some tenderness to his forearm, and that's exactly what the MRI showed -- irritation to his left forearm," Ryan said. "We're going to go day to day with him, too. We're going to leave him back in Minnesota at least two days and see how he is Wednesday."
Perkins struggled on Sunday, allowing three runs, including a two-run homer to Josh Hamilton, in the Twins' 4-3 loss to the Rangers. He didn't record an out before being removed from the game and has an 8.31 ERA in 4 1/3 innings this year.
Marquis in line to make first start Wednesday
NEW YORK -- Twins right-hander Jason Marquis threw a bullpen session before Monday's game against the Yankees, and he remains on track to make his first start of the year on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
Marquis made two starts with Double-A New Britain, allowing three runs over 14 innings. It came after he missed two weeks of Spring Training tending to his 7-year-old daughter, Reese, who was seriously injured in a bicycle accident on Long Island.
But Marquis said his daughter is doing better, and he is ready to make his first career start at Yankee Stadium.
"I felt great physically and mentally," Marquis said. "Obviously the time the Twins gave me to be with my daughter and pitch with New Britain at the same time allowed me not only to get ready physically, but mentally, too. She's at home safe and sound now."
It worked out well for Marquis, who was able to make the two-hour trip to New Britain to make his starts. His last one came Thursday, when he allowed two runs over eight innings.
"He's ready, we're ready and it's worked out well," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "I couldn't be more pleased for him and his daughter."
The Twins still have to make a roster move to activate Marquis before Wednesday's game. The Twins could opt to place Glen Perkins (forearm) or Nick Blackburn (shoulder) on the disabled list or option a player, perhaps Alex Burnett.
Blackburn to miss next start as precaution
NEW YORK -- Right-hander Nick Blackburn will miss his next start on Thursday against the Yankees, as the Twins want to be cautious with him after he left his start early with shoulder stiffness on Saturday.
Right-hander Anthony Swarzak will make his third start of the season in Blackburn's place, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.
Blackburn, who left his start against the Rangers after 5 1/3 innings, is set to play catch on Wednesday before throwing bullpens on Friday and Sunday to get ready for a possible return to the rotation on Tuesday against the Red Sox at Target Field.
"Swarzak and [Liam] Hendriks are going to stay in the rotation," Gardenhire said. "If everything goes good, [Blackburn] will officially miss one start and take the fifth spot."