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Justin Morneau addresses trade rumors

MINNEAPOLIS — With the All-Star Game now in the rearview mirror, the July 31 Trade Deadline looms for the Twins, who are expected to be sellers after losing 12 of 15 entering the break.

First baseman Justin Morneau and closer Glen Perkins are the club’s two biggest trade chips but Twins general manager Terry Ryan said he’ll listen in on any potential offers for any of the club’s players. Others who could be available include veteran right-handers Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia and veteran utility infielder Jamey Carroll.

Morneau, who is making $14 million this season in the last year of a six-year deal signed in 2008, said he’s trying his best to ignore all the trade rumors surrounding him.

“It’s out of my control,” Morneau said. “I’m not too worried about it. If it happens, I’ll deal with it. If not, I’m happy to play here.”

Morneau added that his camp has not been contacted by the Twins about a possible extension and that he has six teams on a limited no-trade clause but none of the six teams are among those listed as potential suitors. Teams reportedly interested in Morneau are the Yankees, Rays, Pirates, Orioles and Red Sox.

Morneau also wouldn’t say if he’d re-sign with the Twins this off-season if he were dealt, as he didn’t want to deal with any hypothetical questions just yet. But he did say that if it were up to him, he’d stay with Minnesota.

“I think it’s more rewarding to win with the organization you’ve grown up with and the people that you almost become a family with,” said Morneau, who has played with the Twins since ‘03. “It’s a place where I’m happy and we’ve won here, which is always the goal. But it’s not up to me, so we’ll see what happens.”

Rhett Bollinger

Gardenhire celebrates 10th Opening Day with Twins

BALTIMORE — While the Orioles celebrated the 20th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire celebrated an anniversary of his own.

Minnesota’s Opening Day tilt against Baltimore marked Gardenhire’s 10th season as manager after he took over from Tom Kelly prior to the 2002 season.

But Gardenhire became manager amid turmoil, as contraction threatened the Twins that offseason, but ultimately they played the season and ended up advancing all the way to the American League Championship Series where they lost to the Angels in five games.

“We talked about that a few times,” Gardenhire said about the rumors of contraction that offseason. “More so than anything else, was the wait after I interviewed for the job. The wait in between being interviewed and not knowing whether I’d be a manager or even have a job. It was pretty entertaining.

“But the coaching staff, we couldn’t start looking for another job because we were still with the Twins. I was interviewed for the manager’s job so I had to sit back and wait. Terry [Ryan] kind of saved the day for myself and the organization by saying he was staying and that we’d go about business as normal to prepare for a season. That was huge. So he gave me this opportunity, and it’s been a fun time.”

Under Gardenhire, the second-longest tenured manager in baseball behind Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, the Twins have won the AL Central six times. But Gardenhire says he never looks back at what he’s accomplished so far as manager.

“I don’t,” Gardenhire said. “I just go day by day and year by year. I enjoy what I’m doing, I enjoy the organization and I enjoy where I live. Everybody in baseball knows you’re always fortunate to stay in baseball with the longevity I’ve had here along with my coaching staff. It’s not the norm. I’m blessed to say the least. As for as judging we’ve had some success, some years that haven’t gone as well, and we haven’t won a World Series and that’s always the goal. So we haven’t finished the job yet.”

– Rhett Bollinger

Twins, Marquis close to reaching deal

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins are close to reaching an agreement with free-agent starting pitcher Jason Marquis, according to a FoxSports.com report.

The Twins, however, have not commented on the report.

Marquis, 33, posted a 4.43 ERA in 23 starts with the Nationals and D-backs last season. He also struck out 76, walked 43 and allowed 11 homers in 132 innings.

The right-hander has a career 4.55 ERA in 12 seasons with the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies, Nationals and D-backs.

Marquis would fill a need as a back-of-the-rotation starter, as left-hander Brian Duensing remains a likely candidate to be moved to the bullpen this season.

Twins starters combined to post the third-worst ERA in the American League last season (4.64) while striking out just 617 batters in 961 innings.

– Rhett Bollinger

Nine teams have checked in on Willingham

DALLAS — Nine teams have called on free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham, including the Twins, Red Sox, Indians, and Reds, according to an ESPN report.

The Pirates also have checked in on Willingham, according to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.

The Twins tentatively set a face-to-face meeting with Willingham’s agent, Matt Sosnick, for later this week, but their top target remains Michael Cuddyer.

The Reds appear to have moderate interest in Willingham, according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon.

And the Indians’ interest in Willingham is mild, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian.

- Rhett Bollinger

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