Justin Morneau could return for ALCS
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota slugger Justin Morneau will be watching the first round of the AL playoffs from the bench.
He is still holding out hope to have a much more active role should the Twins advance to the AL championship series.
Morneau, who has been out since July 7 because of a concussion, took early batting practice and some ground balls on Thursday evening before the start of the final series of the regular season. He ruled himself out of returning in time for the ALDS, which begins at Target Field on Wednesday, but he wasn't ready to entirely give up on returning for the postseason.
"The first round is not something that's going to be possible with being out for as long as I've been out," Morneau said before the Twins hosted the Toronto Blue Jays. "But we'll have the goal of hopefully being ready by the second round. But this thing is so unpredictable, it's hard to say."
Morneau was injured while sliding into second base in Toronto nearly three months ago. He collided with Jays second baseman John McDonald's knee and left the game after feeling woozy. The aftereffects lingered well into September, but the All-Star first baseman has been improving.
He was upbeat on Thursday, telling reporters he hasn't felt much of the symptoms since Sunday. If all went well, he planned to ramp up his workouts on Friday by joining the team for the full pregame routine.
"It's 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 just keeps going like this every day, and we'll see where we're at."
The Twins have been patient all summer with Morneau. They remain adamant that they will not rush him back, concentrating instead on his long-term health.
"I just want to see him get out here on the baseball field and doing his workouts, doing his routine and then you see what you can do from there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I really haven't tried to envision anything with him right now other than his health."
Morneau was hitting .345 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs when he went down and still has the fourth-highest home run total on the team despite playing in only 80 games.
Somehow, the Twins have played better without him. Michael Cuddyer moved from right field to first base to fill in and the Twins went 47-23 after the All-Star break to enter the final series one game behind Tampa Bay in the race for the best record in the American League.
Morneau said he's proud of how his teammates have carried on without him. His biggest frustration has come from not being able to explain to everyone exactly what he's going through.
"Head injuries aren't like a broken wrist where you walk around with a cast on," he said. "It's inside. It's pretty much how you feel. It's not something that shows up on an X-ray or anything like that. It's something that anybody who's been through it can know what it feels like, but it's hard to describe.
"You kind of sit down and watch TV, and I couldn't make it through watching two or three innings of a game. Now all of that stuff is kind of back to normal."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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