MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Target Field’s magical Year 1 continues next week when the Minnesota Twins play host to an American League Division Series.
First baseman Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., won’t be playing.
The Twins had been encouraged Wednesday after Morneau had “four straight good days in a row,” according to manager Ron Gardenshire.
Morneau suffered a concussion July 7 in a collision at second base with Blue Jays infielder John McDonald at the Roger Centre. Morneau said he would not be ready for the first round of the playoffs after a workout Thursday afternoon.
Still, Thursday was a day of progress for Morneau — five good days in a row — who took batting practice and fielded ground balls. He hopes he might be able to return for the American League Championship Series, if the Twins advance.
If he is symptom-free Friday morning, he’ll participate in a complete pre-game workout with the Twins before the game as a next step.
“The first round is not something that’s going to be possible, being out for as long as I’ve been out,” Morneau told reporters. “But we’ll have the goal of hopefully being ready by the second round. This thing is so unpredictable, it’s hard to say.”
Morneau said McDonald called the Twins clubhouse the next day to check on Morneau’s condition.
“He told me to make sure I was ready before I returned,” Morneau said. “He apologized, he didn’t need to apologize.
“He wasn’t trying to knee me in the head. I was trying to take him out on a double play ball. It was baseball.”
Morneau said McDonald checks often on his condition through their mutual friend Corey Koskie of Anola, Man., who played for the Twins and the Jays and resides in suburban Minneapolis.
“Corey keeps me posted on how he’s doing,” McDonald said in the Jays third base dugout. “I hope to get to see Justin. He’s in good hands here. Even though Corey didn’t suffer his concussion playing for the Twins, he saw their doctors.”
Koskie was injured diving for a ball behind third while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006.
Aaron Hill. Koskie. Morneau.
Baseball is used to someone coming back from Tommy John surgery, trips to the disabled list for a sprained knee or whatever. Morneau experienced post-concussion symptoms from July until five days ago is new.
Morneau was batting .345 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 81 games before he took the knee to the head.
A few days before that he and Etobicoke’s Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds led their respective leagues in hitting.
“It has been a very good few days,” Morneau said. “We’ll see how it goes the rest of the day. This is the first day being outside, doing everything for a while. It’s a positive, and we’re hoping it keeps going like this every day and we’ll see where we’re at.”
While Morneau went down, the Twins didn’t falter.
“They’ve had some guys step up, improved as a team,” said Jays manager Cito Gaston. “Detroit had guys get hurt and they fell off the pace.”
The American League East has yet to be undecided so the Twins will play host to the wild-card winners, either the New York Yankees or the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Head injuries aren’t like a broken wrist where you walk around with a cast on,” Morneau said. “It’s inside. It’s how you feel. It’s not something that shows on an X-ray. It’s something anybody who has been through it can know what it feels like, but hard to describe.
“To sit down and watch TV, I couldn’t make it through two or three innings. Now all of that stuff is back to normal.”
Morneau and the Twins hope for a long October.