Morneau to sit six more weeks

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 25, 2011 - 1:39 AM

The Twins first baseman, already on the disabled list because of a wrist injury, is scheduled to have surgery on his neck.

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Twins first baseman Justin Morneau

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune file

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MILWAUKEE - Twins first baseman Justin Morneau will have surgery Wednesday to relieve a pinched nerve in his neck and isn't expected to return before August.

Morneau was dealing with the neck issue before going on the disabled list June 14 because of a strained left wrist. He was scheduled to have his cast removed Friday, but since he wasn't regaining strength as the Twins had hoped, they asked him to see a neck specialist, who recommended the surgery.

"It's a very noninvasive procedure that he'll have to remove a herniated disk fragment from his neck, and he should be back playing full in six weeks," Twins trainer Rick McWane said.

Since playing in all 163 Twins games in 2008, Morneau has had three frustrating years injury-wise. He missed the Twins' final 23 games in 2009, counting the postseason, because of a stress fracture in his lower back. He suffered a concussion last July 7 and missed the final 81 games, including the playoffs.

This year, Morneau played in 55 of the team's first 62 games, but even if he returned six weeks from Wednesday -- Aug. 10 -- this DL stretch will cost him about 50 games.

"It's unfortunate, but hopefully this is the last of all the stuff I'll have to go through," Morneau, 30, said in a conference call with reporters.

McWane stressed that Morneau wanted to avoid neck surgery but that the team urged him to see a specialist. The pinched nerve was causing weakness in Morneau's left arm and numbness in his left fingers. Morneau said he hasn't been able to feel his left index finger since the final week of spring training.

Morneau had two cortisone shots in his neck, one in April and one in May, but the numbness never went away.

The 2006 American League MVP found himself swinging with one arm, as he batted .225 with four homers and 21 RBI.

"I think the thing that kind of made the decision was hearing that it could be permanent -- the weakness in the arm and numbness in the fingers," Morneau said. "So hopefully the results will be good, and I'll be ready for August and September. And hopefully the boys keep playing well and I'm there for the pennant race instead of having to watch like I have for the last two years."

Morneau said he was feeling good about the progress he has made from the concussion he suffered sliding into second base at Toronto last summer. He still tires easily and still gets occasional headaches -- something that also happened before the concussion -- but he's thinking about the concussion less with each passing day.

If there's one blessing to this DL stint, it will distance him more from the concussion. He also kept the cast on his wrist, giving that injury more time to heal.

"It's kind of got me looking if there's anything I can do different in the offseason," Morneau said. "I'm trying to figure out if I'm doing something wrong, mechanically or in my training. Because as frustrating as it is for the fans who'd like to see this guy play, it's about a million times more frustrating for me."

Manager Ron Gardenhire said he had been hoping Morneau would get his cast removed Friday and be back in the lineup after four or five days.

"He'd been kind of a warrior for us up until he finally went out with this wrist thing," Gardenhire said. "So not very good news for us. We'll play and we'll do the best we can like we always do, but I feel bad for him more than anything."

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