Twins announce end to Morneau's season
First baseman had been out since sustaining concussion on July 7
MINNEAPOLIS -- While his Twins teammates rested on Monday in preparation of their American League Division Series with the Yankees, Justin Morneau, along with Twins general manager Bill Smith, announced that the first baseman would not be returning for the postseason.Morneau has been out since July 7 with a concussion that he suffered when he was accidentally kneed in the head by Blue Jays second baseman John McDonald on a slide into second base in a game at Toronto. Last week, Morneau had said that he hoped to be ready for the AL Championship Series if the Twins could make it out of the first round, which will start Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. CT on TBS. But while Smith made it clear that Morneau has not suffered a setback in his recovery, the decision was made to shut down the All-Star first baseman for the remainder of 2010, regardless of how far the Twins advance in this year's postseason. "We are going to shut him down for the postseason and just take away that question mark," Smith said. "There is a lot of anticipation of what's going to happen, and in talks with Justin and our doctors and everybody, we have made the decision that to try to get him ready to play in the ALCS or the World Series in the matter of two weeks is accelerating the process too quickly. "It's not a setback. I think Justin has continued to make great progress, but we are going to turn all of our attention to getting him ready to play for Spring Training." Morneau took part in a workout with the Twins on Thursday afternoon at Target Field, hitting in the cage, playing catch and fielding grounders at first base. But Morneau said Monday that he didn't feel as good after the workout as he had hoped. With the approval of doctors, Morneau tried to work out again on Saturday to see if he could push through it, but there were signs that his concussion still has not completely healed. "The symptoms ended up coming back more than what was OK to keep trying to push through," Morneau said. "I woke up Sunday and it was still there. That's kind of when we thought it was the time to re-evaluate and see where we're at." There had been a buzz of excitement around the Twins this past week following Morneau's assertion that he hoped to be able to return to the team should it advance beyond the first round. Prior to the concussion, Morneau appeared headed toward another MVP-caliber season. He was hitting .345 with a .437 on-base percentage and a .618 slugging percentage, to go along with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 81 games. So there was certainly a lot of discussion from both fans and media about what Morneau could bring to the team if he was ready to return at some point in the postseason. But the focus of Morneau and the Twins all along in his recovery has been to ensure that his concussion was fully healed before the first baseman returned to the field.
"Long-term health and long-term career are more important than the next week or next month," Smith stressed.
And the short window for Morneau to prepare himself for the postseason just wasn't enough time to make sure he was completely ready to play again."The biggest thing the doctor said to me is, 'I'm confident that you'll get better, confident that you'll be ready to go for Spring Training. So if you go out there and get hit again, I don't want you feeling like this when you're 50,'" Morneau said. "I think that's kind of what made me realize there is the potential for this to carry on for a long time, and that's what we're definitely trying to avoid." Morneau said the next step for him is to take two weeks to rest and then he'll be re-evaluated by the doctors. The goal at that time is to get him into a workout program that will slowly build him up for Spring Training. Morneau, who reiterated that he's seen significant progress from when he first suffered the injury, is confident he'll be ready at that time. "If we just eliminate all the question marks now, hopefully when we get into November I can get on my regular workout program," Morneau said. "I'll have the couple weeks off once the season is over and then get back into workouts ... so we're completely ready for Spring Training." The first baseman said that he'll continue to be around the Twins and attend games while they are at home during the postseason, but he will not travel on the road with them to avoid all the distractions. Morneau admitted that the decision to shut things down was more difficult than he thought it might be. He's now going to miss the postseason for a second straight year after being sidelined with a stress fracture in his lower back last season. But the first baseman does have a pretty good distraction at home now -- his newborn daughter, Evelyn, who was born on Sept. 23 and is the first child for Morneau and his wife, Krista. "It's about someone else now," Morneau said. "Every day I would wake up and go through the checklist of, 'Do I have a headache? How do I feel?' And now I wake up and I see how she is doing. It's not about me anymore. I think that's nice to be able to have that. I think that's a nice distraction now that the playoffs are starting, which is what we all play for." As for what he's learned about concussions, Morneau said that he's had to be more patient than he expected and realize the timetable for his recovery from this type of injury was out of his own control. Although he'd suffered concussions in his youth, including one at age 14 or 15 while playing hockey, and one back in 2005 when he was hit in the head by a pitch from Seattle's Ron Villone, Morneau had never had to miss more than a couple of weeks prior to this current concussion. But while this injury has kept Morneau off the baseball field for over three months, he said that doctors have assured him that concussions don't get progressively worse if you suffer more of them. As long as the previous concussion has healed, then another one would be considered a new injury. Morneau has undergone a couple baseline tests to see how he's doing, and everything has shown that he's well on his way to being healthy. "From where it was the day after the concussion, the numbers have increased and that's proof it's getting better," Morneau said of the tests. "It's just not back to where it needs to be."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.