Justin Morneau made last year’s concussion sound like a part of his distant past Sunday, after a game spent getting his uniform dirty at Target Field.
Apparently, he spoke too soon.
Morneau began experiencing concussion symptoms Monday — a headache and fogginess — and the Twins immediately contacted the Pittsburgh specialist who treated Morneau through the injury that cost him last season’s final four months.
The specialist recommended that Morneau take a baseline concussion test.
"The test is broken down into a series of mini-tests, and one of them came back, as the doctor described, as mildly below baseline," Twins trainer Rick McWane said.
"For the most part, the rest of the tests looked good. If you have to put a diagnosis on it, you can say mild concussion symptoms. He wasn’t overly concerned."
Morneau, 30, said he felt much better Tuesday morning, but he’ll be re-evaluated by one of the White Sox’s team doctors on Wednesday. He still plans to travel with the team to Anaheim, Calif., after Wednesday’s game but probably won’t play until Friday, at the earliest.
"It’s not even comparable to what it was [last year]," Morneau said. " I think it’s more of a precaution-type thing, but it’s something we need to monitor. We’ll hopefully be good to go in a couple days."
Morneau hit the dirt at least four times Sunday in an 11-4 victory over the Tigers. He took an extra base twice and made a diving play to end the game. He traced his symptoms to a play in the second inning, when he dived for Alex Avila’s ball down the first-base line.
"I kind of stuck when I hit the ground," he said. "I don’t know if it was awkward. It felt kind of awkward. I’m sure it looked awkward. I think it jarred me a little bit."
Morneau also injured his left shoulder on the play but said he would have been back in the lineup Tuesday if the shoulder was the only issue.
He hoped to finish strong after missing 56 games from mid-June to mid-August, recovering from a strained wrist and surgery to remove a pinched nerve from his neck. After going 3-for-4 on Sunday, he’s batting .227 with four homers and 30 RBI.
Offensively, it’s been a struggle for Morneau all season, but until this week, at least the concussion symptoms hadn’t returned. He noticed a big difference in how he felt, in general, after his June 24 neck surgery.
"I felt completely normal doing whatever I need to do," he said. "Extra swings, extra defense — anything I need to do I haven’t felt limited at all. My energy’s always felt like it has in the past. This gives me a little reminder, or whatever you want to call it."
The Twins hope that’s all it is — a little reminder. The concussion was a factor for Morneau from July 7, 2010, all the way into spring training, when he was finally cleared to play games.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said he doesn’t want Morneau to be more cautious when he plays, and the first baseman doesn’t plan on slowing down unless he has to. Right now, he does because headaches aren’t a good sign.
"It’s something we don’t take very lightly around here," Gardenhire said. "We’ll be very careful with his situation."