Morneau plays on, despite his sore legs

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2008 - 7:42 AM
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Despite his sore legs, the Twins' Justin Morneau made his eighth start at DH in Wednesday’s game against Cleveland. His other 144 starts have come at first base.

Photo: Gail Burton, Associated Press file

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CLEVELAND - No wonder Justin Morneau's legs are sore. According to baseballreference.com, he is one of only two major league players who haven't missed a start this season. The other is Raul Ibanez.

Two others have appeared in every game but not started all of them: Ichiro Suzuki and Ryan Howard.

Morneau made his eighth start at DH in Wednesday's game against Cleveland. His other 144 starts have come at first base.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire planned to have Morneau DH the second game of Saturday's doubleheader at Baltimore, but Morneau figured he should stay in the field rather than risk stiffening up on the bench.

He was back at first base Sunday, even when the game-time temperature was 95 degrees, and he hobbled through the first two games in Cleveland.

"He wants to play, he wants to be in there, he knows his legs are about done," Gardenhire said. "He's played a lot of baseball."

And played well.

Morneau leads the AL with 128 RBI. Josh Hamilton had 124, despite leading Morneau 95-68 at the All-Star break.

Turning to Mijares

Gardenhire acknowledged that Jose Mijares' role could grow in importance after the lefthander started his big league career with three scoreless appearances.

Mijares, 22, made the jump from Class AA New Britain as a September call-up.

His first two appearances came in blowouts -- a victory Saturday and a loss Sunday -- but Mijares breezed both times.

Then Tuesday, Mijares entered in the 10th inning against Cleveland, with the score tied 9-9. It was a big test, and Mijares retired the side with seven pitches. He was the hard-luck loser Wednesday, giving up one run and one hit in two-thirds of an inning.

Scouts have been impressed, noting that Mijares throws all his pitches -- a hard fastball, slider and changeup -- for strikes.

Gardenhire said he has to be careful because Mijares had surgery to repair his pitching elbow after fracturing it in a January car accident.

"I don't want to abuse him because he came off a major elbow thing," Gardenhire said. "But it's fun to watch him come out and throw it like he does."

Etc.

• Brian Buscher started at first base, in place of Morneau but left the game in the seventh inning because of a jammed left thumb.

• Former Twins reliever Juan Rincon will be a free agent at season's end, and Cleveland is not expected to bring him back. Entering Wednesday, Rincon had a 5.50 ERA, including a 1.74 ERA in eight appearances since Aug. 29.

• Denard Span will have several friends and family members at Tropicana Field tonight and through the weekend. He graduated from Tampa Catholic High School in 2002.

 Boof Bonser, a St. Petersburg, Fla., native, also has a big following for each game at The Trop. He was the 2000 Pinellas County player of the year.

• After returning to Minnesota for the birth of his second child, Jesse Crain had flight delays returning to Cleveland on Wednesday but arrived in time to come in to pitch in the sixth inning.

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