416 feet. That's how long Justin Morneau's home run flew to center field last night in a rare Twins victory at Yankee Stadium. It's a reach to say it's anything more than coincidence that Morneau happened to crank a 400+ foot blast the night he was inserted back into the defensive side of the game, playing first base, but there will likely be no shortage of people who make that connection and want to see more of Morneau at first base. Realistically, it probably had more to do with the 87mph meatball that an over-the-hill Freddy Garcia spoon-fed our power-starved former MVP, but if Morneau claims he's more comfortable at first base, I'm not going to question it. This, however, would create a bit of a roster crunch and beg the question, what's best for Chris Parmelee? And, what's best for Morneau?
Parmelee undeniably had a fantastic showing in both September and Spring Training. He hit for power, drew walks, and looked like an all-around offensive force. Lost in all that seems to be the fact that Parmelee hit .287/.366/.436 at Double-A New Britain last season -- an .801 OPS in 610 plate appearances. So far, albeit in a microscopic 27 PA sample size, Parmelee's hit .231/.259/.346. He's struck out six times in those 27 PAs (22.8%), compared to 13 in 88 PAs last September (14.8%). Yes, it's minuscule, but it's what we've got for now.
Morneau's not going to be at first base every day, but increased playing time there along with the time Joe Mauer will see at first to spare him the rigors of full-time catching will limit Parmelee's chances. Parmelee has, of course, seen extensive time in right field, but Ron Gardenhire will also be trying to find at-bats for Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe, and the Twins' newest Michael (yes, that's Clete Thomas' actual first name). Adding Parmelee to that mix puts everyone into a crunch for playing time.
Parmelee could form a platoon in right field with Plouffe, allowing Thomas to shift into a traditional fourth outfielder role with Morneau and Mauer rotating at first and DH. In that scenario, Doumit would catch when Morneau is at DH and Mauer plays first, and he'd DH with Mauer behind the dish and Morneau at first.
From a developmental standpoint though, what's the benefit of relegating Parmelee to a platoon role at age 23? Plus, what would the defensive ramifications be? Can this pitch-to-contact staff really afford corner outfield spots to be occupied by Josh Willingham and Parmelee? I'll admit, I haven't seen Parmelee in the outfield much, but I don't imagine him being particularly swift out there.
I understand wanting to give Parmelee an opportunity to hit his way into an everyday role, but has he really done so much that he's at the point where there's nothing for him to prove in the Minors? Parmelee may benefit the most from facing same-handed pitching in an everyday role at Triple-A. All this would require would be displacing Aaron Bates as the everyday Rochester first baseman. Thomas and Plouffe can platoon in right field while Morneau, Mauer, and Doumit can be placed in the C/1B/DH rotation.
The extra roster spot can be used on a third catcher (not my first choice), an additional reliever (which the Twins may very well need given the current state of the starting rotation), or a true backup middle infielder (likely acquired from outside the organization). Brandon Warne suggested last week that the Twins make a move to bring in first baseman/outfielder Brandon Allen, who was recently designated for assignment by the Athletics. I'm firmly on board with that concept, though I have to share Brandon's belief that it's highly unlikely.
If Morneau decides playing something like 1-2 games per week in the field is all he can handle or all he cares to risk, Parmelee can be afforded a bit longer of a trial run at the Major League level. If, however, Morneau decides that last night's success was the result of seeing time in the field, the Twins will have to make a decision on what to do with Parmelee. I hope, for his sake and for the future interest of the team, that it doesn't involve moving Parmelee back and forth between first base and right field. I think there's benefit to Parmelee coming to a park and knowing that he's in the lineup and where he's going to play when he gets there... even if that park is located in Rochester.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com, and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve