KANSAS CITY, MO. – It wasn’t exactly in the line of duty for his country, but helping a Canadian gave Justin Morneau a little extra satisfaction from his first-inning home run in the Twins’ 7-0 victory over the Royals on Tuesday.
“It was nice to get a guy the lead in his first game, no matter who it is,” said Morneau, whose blast staked rookie Andrew Albers to a 3-0 lead before he took the mound. “To see a fellow Canadian throw that well makes it extra special.”
But the fact that it was the British Columbia native’s third home run in August’s first six games made it plenty special, too, for a power hitter who has been searching for his home run stroke.
“My swing feels like my swing now, for the first time in a really long time,” Morneau said after retaking the Twins’ home run lead with 11. “I’ve just got to try to maintain the consistency with it. It feels a lot better now than it has over the past month, month and a half. At least now it feels like it’s supposed to.”
He’s not sure if that makes him feel better or worse, though, because he’s not sure where his swing went, or why it returned.
“It’s so hard to pinpoint what changed,” he said. “We were saying in the cage today, the swing is one of the most mystifying things in sports. It can be there one day and gone the next, you don’t know what you did differently.”
Albers’ day-after wasn’t quite as memorable as his 8⅓ shutout innings Tuesday, but it might have been just as busy. The major leagues’ first native of Saskatchewan to play in a game since Terry Puhl in 1991 was inundated with interview requests from his home country.
“I did about 20 interviews, beginning at 9 a.m.,” Albers said, but he wasn’t complaining. “It’s an honor to hear how much last night meant to Canadians.”
He even did one interview in French, speaking to a radio station in Quebec, where he played one season in the Can-Am Association.
His phone was jammed by text messages from friends, family and proud Canadians, too, numbering more than 150, he guessed.
But Albers said his preparation for his next start, against the Indians on Monday at Target Field, begins “right now. I’ve got to put last night aside, as exciting as it was, and get into my regular routine. One game doesn’t mean much — I’ve got a job to do, and that’s to get ready to pitch again.”
• Liam Hendriks, 0-1 in two April starts for the Twins, will start the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, the Twins announced. Hendriks will serve as the 26th player teams are allowed to add for doubleheaders, then return to Class AAA Rochester after his start.
• Aaron Hicks suffered a strained right quad while running the bases in Rochester’s game with Durham on Tuesday and was out of the lineup a day later. The Twins don’t consider the injury to be serious, assistant general manager Rob Antony said.