Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Justin Morneau to Miss the Rest of 2009

The Minnesota Twins fading playoff hopes took another hit Tuesday when it was announced that All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau will miss the remainder of the season.

Morneau has been battling back pain for weeks, but a CT scan and an MRI on Monday revealed that he has a stress fracture in his lower back.

The injury doesn’t figure to require surgery. Rather doctors have told Morneau to rest the back for the next three months.

Morneau hurt himself on a headfirst slide into first base on Friday and hasn’t played since.

Prior to last week’s injury the slugging first baseman had already been playing with pain off and on for quite some time. As a result, his performance has suffered mightily; Morneau was hitting just .077 in September to drop his season average to .274.

"You can play through the pain if you feel like you're helping the team or doing something to help your teammates out and win ballgames," Morneau said. "When you go out there and you don't feel like you're helping anyone, that's when you kind of take a step back and go, 'All right, maybe I'm doing more harm than good.' "

Despite his struggles of late, Morneau finishes the 2009 campaign with 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in.

Michael Cuddyer figures to become the primary first baseman in Morneau’s absence.

Despite the injury, Morneau remains upbeat about the Twins chances the rest of the way.

"Hopefully I'll watch the boys go on a run here and play cheerleader and that's about it," Morneau said.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Baker's Dozen: Twins Ace Guns for 13th Win


Scott Baker is the Twins’ ace.

Period.

Baker is going for his thirteenth victory of the season today in Cleveland and hasn’t lost a game in his last ten starts. The Twins are 8-2 over that stretch and Baker has been easily the most dominant member of the Twins recently-impressive rotation.

Given his performances of late, it’s hard to imagine that a few months back the right-hander had fans and sports-writers alike calling for his head and demanding that he be pulled from the rotation.

Baker struggled early in the 2009 campaign after signing a four year, $15.25 million extension during Spring Training.

He missed time early on after being placed on the disabled list with a stiff shoulder and struggled mightily upon returning to the Twins’ rotation.

After sputtering to a 2-6 start with a sky-high 6.32 ERA through May, Baker finally turned it all around and become the pitcher the Twins envisioned when they offered him the new contract.

Since losing to Tampa Bay to close out the month of May, Baker has gone 10-1 with a 3.51 ERA and has been especially dominant since the All-Star Break posting a 5-0 record with a miniscule 2.76 ERA.

Although no one is going to confuse Baker with departed ace Johan Santana, he is still giving the team exactly what it needs most—a chance to win every time out.

Baker has tossed a quality start in six of his last ten outings, keeping the Twins in the game and allowing the team’s dynamic offense to take care of business on the other side of the ball.

"I'd hate to see where we'd be without Baker," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "People like to talk about his age. But I told him the other day, 'You're getting to be the veteran of the staff, and you're pitching like it.'"

Baker has been one of the few constants in a Twins’ rotation that has been a patchwork of minor leaguers, beleaguered veterans and converted relievers in recent months.

After losing starters Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey and Francisco Liriano to injuries and missing out on deals to land right-handers Brad Penny and Rich Harden, Baker stepped up and took over as both the staff ace and the veteran presence the team sorely needed.

Baker’s willingness to adapt and change has paid huge dividends both for himself and for the entire ballclub.

This change has proven the front office knew what they were doing when the inked the young veteran to his extension in March and has proven to the rest of the club that they’ve finally gotten the one thing they’ve been looking for since the Santana trade.

"He's been the ace of the staff," Anderson said. "Our players know when he's in, he's going to give them a chance to win."

Scott Baker is the Twins’ ace.

Period.