Morneau is expected to leave hospital today; return uncertain

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2007 - 8:58 AM

MIAMI - Twins first baseman Justin Morneau remained hospitalized for a second night Saturday after leaving Friday's game because of a bruised right lung.

After seeing a specialist Saturday, Morneau is expected to have a blood test this morning and another chest X-ray before being released from Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Morneau is expected to rejoin the team for its flight to Minnesota after today's game.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the team remains unsure when Morneau will be ready to play again.

When asked about potential replacements should Morneau need to go on the disabled list, Gardenhire mentioned Garrett Jones and Glenn Williams but added: "I don't think we're quite there yet. I think this is going to be a couple days and see how he feels."

Gardenhire said he was somewhat relieved when he learned late Friday that Morneau's initial X-ray and CAT scan results came back normal. Morneau, 25, had coughed up blood before being taken from Dolphin Stadium on a stretcher.

"We were hoping it's not a broken rib or a punctured lung or something like that," Gardenhire said. "He's a big strong hockey guy. So, when he was hurting like that and couldn't catch his breath, yeah, we were a little concerned."

Morneau had played 191 consecutive games before the fourth-longest such streak among active players was ended Saturday.

Jeff Cirillo played first base. Nick Punto played third and moved back to the No. 2 spot. "Just trying to balance it out a little more," Gardenhire said. "Try to put Punto back in the second hole to try to see if we can do something there that will speed the top."

Rincon not reeling

Besides seeing Morneau wheeled out on a stretcher, Gardenhire felt responsible for Friday's loss. Little wonder the manager continued pacing in his office 30 minutes after the game.

Juan Rincon had pitched a 1-2-3 seventh before the Twins scored two runs to tie it. The Twins had an opportunity to make a double switch, with the pitcher due up second the next inning.

Trouble was, confronted with the Morneau injury, Gardenhire didn't have Pat Neshek ready.

With Neshek warming, and nothing but righthanded hitters coming, Gardenhire said he was going to replace Rincon if anybody reached base. But after retiring five consecutive batters, Rincon left a slider up in the strike zone, and Hanley Ramirez drove it for the go-ahead homer.

"The worst possible scenario," Gardenhire said. "But [Rincon] was throwing the ball good. That's the Juanie that we know."

One week ago, Rincon came to the ballpark with a 2.38 ERA. After giving up seven runs -- including three homers -- in his past three outings, that number swelled to 4.56.

"I felt better [Friday]," Rincon said. "It was totally different than last Monday. I felt like I was spotting my pitches. I threw the ball with more confidence. I guess I tried to look at the positive part of it."

Kelly staying put

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