Morneau delivers message to get back where he belongs

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2011 - 10:11 PM

Coming off neck surgery, the slugger wasn't shy in demanding to return to the lineup. The Twins must keep him there.

Justin Morneau was starting a season with the Twins for the first time in 2005. He was hit in the helmet by a pitch from Seattle reliever Ron Villone in the third game.

Morneau went on the disabled list because of a concussion. He missed 13 games and returned to the lineup April 22.

Starting then through Sept. 12, 2009, the Twins totaled 778 regular-season games and Morneau played in 750. This included playing in all 163 games in 2008.

Morneau had played despite back pain for several weeks in 2009. He was swinging feebly in September -- 3-for-39 (.077) -- and finally was sent for an MRI. It showed a stress fracture in his lower back.

He missed the rest of the season, including another Game 163 and then the playoff sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

Since then, from mid-September 2009 through Wednesday night at Target Field, the Twins totaled 300 regular-season games and Morneau played in 136.

Morneau missed the final 78 games of 2010 with the aftereffects of a concussion suffered July 7. He has missed the past 55 games after undergoing neck surgery for a herniated disk.

Morneau has been playing this week for Rochester, the Twins' Class AAA farm club. The plan was to have him join the big-league club in Detroit on Monday.

On Wednesday morning, Morneau sent a text to General Manager Bill Smith that read, "Get me out of here." There was a graphic adverb that modified "out."

A minute later, Morneau sent a text apologizing for use of the adverb, and repeating his desire to rejoin the Twins on Friday in Cleveland.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said in Wednesday's pregame media session that Morneau had won the debate and will return Friday.

"I talked to him and he feels great," Gardenhire said. "That's the first time he's said that to me since he was kneed in the head last July. In spring training and then the first two months [of the schedule], I'd ask how he was doing and he'd say, 'Living the dream.'

"Either that or, 'It is what it is.'

"He sounds different now. He has no doubts. He's been hammering the ball. He wants to get back where he belongs."

Last July 7, Morneau was batting .345, with 18 home runs and 56 RBI. He had been voted a starting first baseman in the All-Star Game.

He took a John McDonald knee to the head in a play at second base in Toronto, and the Twins haven't come close to seeing what they consider to be the real Morneau in the 13 months since.

The public perception has become that Morneau is another Twins player who is both injury-prone and willing to sit when not feeling perfect. There's a far different view of Morneau in the Twins clubhouse, starting with the manager.

"For five years, it almost took an Act of Congress to get Mornie out of the lineup," Gardenhire said. "He wanted to play 'em all. He did in '08 ... played 163.

"He's going to have to change a few things. He's going to have to DH a few times a month, rather than diving around at first base every night. For sure, he's going to have to change his offseason program.

"He can't be killing himself all winter. Justin knows that, too. He said when this neck thing started that he was going to have to change his workouts -- less strength, more flexibility stuff."

This wipeout of a homestand against the Sox from Chicago and Boston has enabled the Twins to stop the charade and start talking about 2012. And they understand the decline will continue if Morneau (31 next May) and Joe Mauer (29 next April) can't regain their star status.

"We need them on the field every night, doing what they can do," Gardenhire said.

Morneau and Mauer have played in the same game nine times since last July 7 -- nine games of 195.

"I miss the sight of them standing there at the corner of dugout, talking about the pitcher they are getting ready to face," Gardenhire said. "We need those two guys hitting together, playing together, to turn this around."

The manager paused and then added: "That, and a couple of free agents."

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City 0 Bottom 1st Inning
San Francisco 0
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 2 FINAL
San Jose 1
Boston 1 2nd Prd 12:35
Toronto 0
NY Rangers 1 2nd Prd 12:50
Montreal 1
New Jersey 0 2nd Prd 9:51
Ottawa 1
Dallas 3 2nd Prd 7:09
NY Islanders 3
Detroit 1 2nd Prd 4:47
Philadelphia 0
Chicago 1 1st Prd 9:13
St. Louis 0
Pittsburgh 1 1st Prd 7:49
Nashville 0
Tampa Bay 1 1st Prd 7:52
Minnesota 2
Florida 8:00 PM
Arizona
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 40 FINAL
Colorado 37
Akron 21 FINAL
Ball State 35
Massachusetts 35 FINAL
Toledo 42
Ohio U 21 FINAL
Western Mich 42
Ga Southern 69 FINAL
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 14 FINAL
Stanford 38
Fla Atlantic 16 FINAL
(23) Marshall 35
Louisiana Tech 31 FINAL
Southern Miss 20
(1) Miss State 45 FINAL
Kentucky 31
Georgia Tech 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 28
(22) West Virginia 34 FINAL
Oklahoma State 10
Texas Tech 27 FINAL
(10) TCU 82
Michigan 11 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 35
Boston College 23 FINAL
Wake Forest 17
Central Mich 20 FINAL
Buffalo 14
Vanderbilt 14 FINAL
Missouri 24
Old Dominion 51 FINAL
Western Ky 66
UNLV 20 FINAL
Utah State 34
Temple 14 4th Qtr 6:15
UCF 34
(15) Arizona 45 3rd Qtr 10:12
Washington St 16
Texas-El Paso 17 3rd Qtr
TX-San Antonio 0
Texas State 0 3rd Qtr
ULM 13
Wyoming 3 2nd Qtr 2:00
Colorado State 24
Syracuse 3 2nd Qtr 1:22
(21) Clemson 3
(3) Ole Miss 7 2nd Qtr 11:55
(24) LSU 0
(4) Alabama 20 1st Qtr 0:18
Tennessee 0
So Carolina 14 2nd Qtr 11:12
(5) Auburn 7
(13) Ohio State 0 1st Qtr 11:28
Penn State 0
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
D.C. 1 FINAL
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 0 2nd Half
New England 1
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 24 FINAL
Toronto 26
Brt Columbia 13
Winnipeg 14
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who should get the Twins' managing job?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close