Posted on: September 18, 2011 12:42 pm

Morneau's disappointing season over

By Matt Snyder

Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has been shut down for the season, much like catcher Joe Mauer was last week. Morneau hadn't played since August 28 as some post-concussion symptoms lingered, but he'll also now have a cyst removed from his left knee (Rhett Bollinger via Twitter).

To say this season has been an utter disaster for the Twins would be an understatement. Morneau and Mauer only combined to play 151 games. Heading into Sunday, only three players have even appeared in more than 100 games (Jason Kubel is sitting at 99). With all those injury issues, the fact that the Twins are sitting with their worst winning percentage since the strike-shortened 1995 season isn't all too surprising.

Morneau, 30, finishes the season hitting .227/.285/.333 with four home runs and 30 RBI in just 69 games. This is a four-time All-Star and one-time MVP who also finished second in MVP voting once. So, yeah, Morneau's 2011 season is a microcosm for his Twins' season in that it's a complete disappointment.

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Posted on: September 16, 2011 9:17 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 11:12 pm

Thome doesn't know if he'll play in 2012

Jim ThomeBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Slugger Jim Thome said he's unsure if he'll return for a 22nd season.

Upon his return to Minnesota as a part of the Indians, Thome talked about his future with reporters.

"I haven't thought about it," Thome said (via the Plain Dealer). "I'm very blessed that I've been able to play as much as I have this year. Let's face it, teams have to call. You've got to get into the winter and see where you stand with that.

"Once I get home and sit down with my wife, similar to last year, we'll see where I'm at."

After going 2 for 4 with a homer in his return to Minnesota on Friday, Thome is hitting .246/.348/.462 with 14 homers in 86 games for the Twins and Indians this season, numbers down from his bounce-back 2010 when he hit 25 homers for the Twins. Thome signed a one-year deal with Minnesota before the season and waived his no-trade clause to return to Cleveland.

The free agent designated hitter market is one of the toughest to crack based on the number of jobs available. There are just 14 of those gigs and it's not a position that many teams like to platoon, even though Thome has done that the last two seasons. If you can't hit enough to DH against both lefties and righties, most teams will want a more versatile player to round out the roster.

At 41, it will be interesting to see if Thome fits into anyone's plans. With his homer on Friday, Thome now has 603 in his career.

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Posted on: September 16, 2011 6:58 pm

Mauer's season over with pneumonia

Joe MauerBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Joe Mauer's season will end like it started -- out with an illness.

Mauer has been diagnoses with a case of pneumonia and has been told to rest for two weeks -- with just a week-and-a-half left in the season.

Mauer started the season with what the team called bilateral leg weakness and has also dealt with soreness and illness throughout the season, his worst since breaking into the big leagues.

It's been an incredibly disappointing season for both the Twins and Mauer, who finishes the season hitting .287/.360/.368 with three homers and 30 RBI in 82 games -- all of those marks other than RBI are career lows. He had just 17 RBI on six homers in 35 games as a 21-year-old in 2004.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Twins manager Ron Gardnehire spoke with Mauer earlier today and said he was "pretty upset."

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Posted on: September 16, 2011 1:42 pm

Morneau unsure of future; may switch to DH

By Evan Brunell

Complications from concussions could push Justin Morneau to a DH role as early as 2012, the Minnesota Star Tribune writes.

"If that's something I need to do, and if that means being able to hit fourth and help this team win every day, I'll do it," Morneau, who has been out since Aug. 28 with a recurrence of concussion symptoms, said. "The last thing we need is to be out there tentative, and not being able to play the game the way it's supposed to be played."

While the 2006 A.L. MVP winner would love to stay at first, Morneau is more concerned with staying healthy. To that end, he would agree to DH for the team if it meant avoiding concussion symptoms or putting Joe Mauer in a better place to succeed. Mauer, who has also been beset by injuries this year, has played 18 games at the position this year, the first time he has played first in the majors.

"Whatever gives us the best chance to win," Morneau said. "If that's me playing first and him catching -- that's kind of why we're both signed here. But we need [Mauer's] bat in the lineup as much as we can. If that means him playing first base once a week, or whatever, let me DH."

Morneau's first concussion came in 2005 when Ron Villone of the Mariners plunked him in the head. That came on April 6 and caused him to miss 16 games although he was healthy the rest of the way. His second knock came last season on July 7. While trying to break up a double play, Morneau got kneed in the head by Toronto's John McDonald, which not only ended his season, but affected his preparation for 2011.

"I did the least amount of work I've done in my career last offseason because I was forced to, and I didn't feel like I was prepared," Morneau said. "I didn't feel as strong as I normally do, I didn't feel ready for the season, and I ended up having neck surgery, which is the last thing I wanted."

Now, after wading through a pinched nerve in his neck that required surgery and a left wrist strain, Morneau's got concussion problems again after diving for a double down the first-base line against the Tigers on Aug. 28.

"That's kind of what makes this whole thing scary," Morneau said of the latest aggravation. "It's a simple play, diving for a ball, that brought this stuff back again. So I don't know."

The latest setback has Morneau wondering about his future.

"That's one of those concerns for sure," he said. "I think that's something we'll revisit this winter, if not the next couple weeks, if this stuff continues. You never know. You put your trust in people who have experience who have studied this stuff their whole life and hope they're right."

Morneau has two years remaining on his six-year, $80 million deal. If the Twins opt to DH Morneau, they won't have much difficulty finding room for him. Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, corner outfielders who steal time at first and DH, will be free agents while Jim Thome and Delmon Young are already gone. The first-base/DH/corner outfield glut the Twins have dealt with for some time will not be an issue, which clears the way for Morneau to DH.

Does that mean Joe Mauer plays first? Possibly, but given Mauer's success behind the plate so far and the difficulty finding a viable catcher, it's more likely Minnesota goes after a first baseman next season. If Morneau's success bears out, it wouldn't be too difficult to flip the two first baseman between first and DH. That could actually benefit Morneau, who could work his way back from the concussion as DH on his own timetable, but still give him reps at first.

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 9:46 am

Pepper: Writing on wall for Guillen

By Matt Snyder

Is there any question this is Ozzie Guillen's last season as the White Sox manager? I'd say no.

The latest report is that Guillen emailed White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf two weeks ago and texted general manager Kenny Williams Tuesday morning. He received replies from neither (Chicago Sun-Times). Granted, I've never been a major-league manager (I'm willing to give it a shot, if any GMs are interested), but I'm gonna go ahead and guess that being ignored when trying to correspond with your bosses is a pretty bad sign.

Remember, in recent weeks Guillen said he wanted to stay in Chicago, but not without a contract extension. And there was a report that indicated the relationship between Guillen and Williams had been irreparably damaged.

Guillen said he's ready for anything.

‘‘My family is ready for everything,’’ he said Tuesday (Chicago Sun-Times). ‘‘It’s like when a hurricane is coming and they say, ‘Hey, it’s Venezuela now, and it’s going to be in Miami in seven days.’ We pack everything, we have everything set up, for good or for bad.’’

The two cities he used in his example aren't just gathered at random. Venezuela is his home country. He also owns a home in Miami, but ... what else is there? Why, the Marlins, of course. A team Guillen helped coach to the 2003 World Series championship before being hired by the White Sox as manager. It's also a ballclub that is said to covet Guillen and is looking for a new manager this offseason before moving into a nice, new home.

It makes too much sense, doesn't it?

Tempers (kind of) flare in L.A.: So Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo threw an errant (and it appeared accidental) pitch near the head of Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra. And then Parra hit a home run and took his sweet old time starting his home run trot. And then Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said a few words as Parra crossed the plate -- he looked more annoyed than angry, for whatever it's worth. A few Dodgers and Parra yelled back and forth while it appeared D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson said a few things, too, but then benches were warned and nothing else happened. I have to say, I'm with Ellis on this. I was watching live and sitting here thinking that it's just lame. Enough with the posturing. Play baseball.

Exit strategy? Potential new Astros owner Jim Crane has yet to be approved, even though it should have happened back in August. The approval process has been continually delayed and there are two separate camps of reports as to what the holdup is. One side says that Crane needs to accept a move to the American League West -- which would clear the way for season-long interleague play and likely an additional playoff team -- and the other says that this is not the specific holdup. Biz of Baseball wonders if Crane is just seeking a way out without being turned away by the MLB due to character concerns that have been raised during the approval process. In other words, if he backs out and uses not wanting to move to the AL as his reason, he was never turned down and saves face.

Braun accountable, even in victory: "Tonight was not a pretty game ... We didn't play well ... I think I probably played my worst 10 innings of baseball of the year ... I don't think we really deserved to win ... we really didn't play a good basball game." Those quotes are all cherry-picked from Ryan Braun's post-game comments (Brewers Blog). Oh, by the way, Braun hit a walk-off home run to win the game in the 11th. And in the parts of the above quotes I removed, Braun was saying to give all the credit to the pitching staff for keeping them in the game (the final score was 2-1). We're big fans of accountability here, so major points to Braun for not forgetting the rest of the game just because the team pulled out a victory. He could have easily only focused on being the hero in the 11th, instead he owned up to playing poorly for most of the night and instead wanted the pitchers to be viewed as the heroes of the game. That's an MVP teammate. While we're here, CBSSports.com's Scott Miller has a great feature on the Brewers. Check it out.

Great day for stat-heads: SeamHeads.com has now finished work on a Negro League database, so you can search for stats from players like Oscar Charleston, who by many accounts was one of the best players to ever play the game -- he just never had a chance to do so on the big stage due to unfortunate bigotry.

Mauer understands backlash: Joe Mauer has made quite a few commercials in the past few years and he has received some criticism over them during this season -- easily the worst of his career. He said that he understands this and he's not going to take on any more commercials for the time being (StarTribune.com).

Some "Moneyball" reviews: Here's a glowing review of the upcoming movie ... and here's a not-so-great review (he does say it's entertaining, just questions the direction taken). While I greatly respect the work of both writers, I don't really care what anyone says. I'm seeing it. If I don't like it, that's on me. 

St. Louis North? The Chicago Sun-Times floats a rumor that has the Cubs landing Reds' general manager Walt Jocketty -- who used to be the Cardinals' GM -- and then bringing Tony La Russa to manage the Cubs ... and then signing free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols. Of course, the report only said "could" and mentioned it was a scenario floated only on the Cubs' end, not mentioning whether or not all three parties would be interested in this. I personally think I have a better shot at winning the lottery than this happening.

No surgery for Dickey: Mets starting pitcher R.J. Dickey has suffered from a partially torn plantar fascia most of the season, but it has subsided enough that he won't need surgery this offseason. (MLB.com)

Happy Anniversary: On this day 25 years ago, Bo Jackson launched his first career home run ... all 475 feet of it. Also, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg made his major-league debut 81 years ago and on this day in 2008, Carlos Zambrano threw his only career no-hitter. If you'll recall, it was a game in Milwaukee against the Houston Astros, as a hurricane moved the series. (Hardball Times)

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 10:12 am

Pepper: Ortiz says it's time to panic

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Wild Cards were all sewn up -- or so we thought.

While it appeared the Braves and Red Sox would cruise to the Wild Card (or the AL East title for Boston), but in the last week, things have gotten interesting. St. Louis swept Atlanta to move just 4.5 games behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay is now just 3.5 games behind the Red Sox as Boston finished a 1-6 road trip, including being swept by the Rays.

Still, there's not a whole lot of baseball left, the two favorites are still favored by mathematicians to hold onto their leads. So it's not time to panic, right?

"Hell yeah, you've got to panic at this point, but you're not going to do anything panicking but playing better," Boston's David Ortiz told reporters (Boston Herald). "Of course you're freaked out, you go on this road trip, 1-6, it's not good. We've got these guys breathing down our next and we're not in first place, either."

Give him credit, Ortiz is always entertaining and this time he's right. The team should worry about the Rays and can't get too worked up about it because panic doesn't help a team play any better. It's an interesting balancing act, playing with urgency, but not panic. Baseball's a tough game that's even tougher when you press.

Cuddyer's homer helped save teammate: Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer hit two game-winning homers in a minor-league playoff series in 2001 to lead his team to a victory in the best-of-five series. If his team had lost the series, teammate Brad Thomas and his wife, Kylie, had already booked a flight home to Australia. The couple would have started its journey on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 2001. With the win, Thomas and his wife had to stay for the next series.

"He credits me for saving his life," Cuddyer told MLB.com. "I mean, I don't know about that. It was just a twist of fate."

Thomas is currently on the Tigers' 60-day disabled list.

Cuddyer also wrote about the incident on FoxSports North.

Wainwright remembers: We all have our own personal stories about where we were on Sept. 11, 2001 -- I drove from Athens, Ga., to Washington, D.C., the day before to go to see PJ Harvey at the 9:30 Club on Sept. 10, 2001. I still have the ticket stub and a September 12, 2001, Washington Post to share with my kids some day. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright was in New York for the Red Sox-Yankees game on Sept. 10, 2001, and then cancelled a morning meeting near the World Trade Center the next day in order to get on the road to Cooperstown with his brother. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Waiting on Theo: Matt touched on this yesterday, but word is Tom Ricketts is willing to wait for his dream GM, Boston's Theo Epstein. While MLB looks down on major offseason announcements before the end of the World Series, those decisions happen all the time and are usually uncovered before the official announcement. However, there is a real wait if one of those interviewed and hired is still working. That could be the case with Boston's Epstein, reportedly Ricketts' top pick. If Epstein is in the least bit interested, Ricketts will wait. [Chicago Tribune]

Beckett to throw: Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett will test his injured right ankle in a bullpen session Monday and could return to the rotation by the end of the week -- welcome news to the Red Sox. [Boston Herald]

Weeks to go slow: Rickie Weeks returned to the Brewers' lineup on Sunday, walking and being hit by a pitch in his only plate appearances and was taken out of the game after four innings. The team plans on taking it slow with him. The Brewers are off on Monday and manager Ron Roenicke said he would try to get Weeks back into the game on Tuesday and maybe increase his innings. Weeks missed six weeks after suffering a severe left ankle sprain. [Appleton Post-Crescent]

Cruz ready to return: The Rangers are in the closest playoff race in baseball, leading the Angels by 2.5 games and they get some good news on Tuesday when Nelson Cruz says he'll be ready to return from the disabled list. Cruz went on the DL on Aug. 30 with a strained left hamstring and ran in the outfield on Saturday. The Rangers don't have any minor-league affiliates still playing, so the team will activate Cruz without a rehab assignment. [MLB.com]

Zimmermann bored sitting out: Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann hasn't pitched in two weeks and won't pitch in the final two weeks of the season. The good news is that next season he won't have an innings limit. With Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals have the building blocks for a very good rotation. [Washington Post]

Prado struggling: An All-Star in 2010, Atlanta's Martin Prado his having a disappointing 2011. The 27-year-old super utility player is hitting .261/.307/.385 this season, well below the .307/.356/.454 line he put up in his first five seasons in the big leagues. The prolonged slump is costing him sleep, Prado told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Romine relishes chance: While Jesus Montero garnered headlines when he was called up, the Yankees have a better catching prospect, Austin Romine. With injuries to Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli, Romine made his big-league debut on Sunday. Romine had thought his season was over after Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre finished its season, but Joe Girardi needed a replacement and got in touch with Romine on Saturday. Girardi hadn't been able to get in touch with the catcher, so he had to go to the Angels' clubhouse to talk to Romine's brother, Andrew, an infielder with the Angles, to get a better number. Austin Romine replaced Montero in the ninth inning, catching Mariano Rivera, who recorded his 599th career save. [MLB.com]

ThunderBolts to White Sox: Just two years ago Dylan Axelrod was pitching for the Windy City ThunderBolts of the independent Frontier League. On Wednesday, he'll be throwing in the Windy City again, but for the White Sox in place of former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. [Chicago Tribune]

Mo Coco: Reds closer Francisco Cordero is willing to re-negotiate his $12 million option for 2012 and general manager Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that an extension is a "possibility." Cordero, a whipping boy in Cincinnati, has had an outstanding year, recording 32 saves with a 2.30 ERA with five blown saves. Since coming to the Reds in 2008, Cordero has 145 saves and 23 blown saves, converting 86 percent of his chances with a 2.94 ERA. The Reds don't have an obvious candidate to take over in the ninth inning if they decline his $12 million option. He was the team's highest-paid player in 2011 and his $12 million in 2012 would be the tied for the team's highest-paid player along with second baseman Brandon Phillips, who also has a $12 million option for 2012 that the team is expected to pick up.

Eat before you go: We see a report like this just about every year, but it's always a good reminder -- if you want your food handled properly before you eat it, you've got to make sure to do it yourself. [CBS Chicago]

Bourjos takes blame: We all have those people we know or work with that will never admit fault -- there's always some crazy excuse or reason something went wrong, and it's never their fault, it's some extenuating circumstance. The Angels' Peter Bourjos is not that guy. His error doomed the Angels on Sunday, and instead of complaining about the sun or anything, taking full responsibility for the play that killed his team. [Los Angeles Times]

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Posted on: September 10, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 4:57 pm

Latest concussion a concern for Morneau, Twins

By C. Trent Rosecrans

While football and hockey are putting a renewed emphasis on safety in light of the rising concern over concussions, baseball's not immune to head injuries just because it's a so-called "non-contact" sport.

The poster boy for concussions in baseball may end up being former MVP Justin Morneau, who missed the second half of last season after suffering a concussion on a play at second base when he took a knee to the head while trying to break up a double play. But that may not be the play that defines Morneau's struggles with concussions. Instead, it could be the concussion he suffered on Aug. 28. The play didn't look anything out of the ordinary -- a first baseman diving after a ball happens all the time. The results don't.

Morneau said he believes he suffered a new concussion in the second inning of the Aug. 28 game at Target Field when he dove for what ended up as a double for Alex Avila. He finished that game, but hasn't played since.

There's plenty we don't know about concussions, but one thing we do know is that once you suffer one, you're more susceptible to more. And that could be the problem for Morneau.

"It's definitely something that concerns me," Morneau told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I mean, that's not normal. You see guys dive all the time. You see guys run full speed into the wall, and they're all right after that."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told the newspaper that he doesn't expect Morenau to play again this season, and if he does, it will be as a DH.

"He hit the ground pretty hard, and it definitely didn't help matters with him," Gardenhire said. "There's always concern. As I've said all along, we don't know enough about this concussion thing … I'm just hoping we can get past these things over the winter, and get into next year and maybe they'll be a thing of the past."

That's a huge hope -- and one that may not have much backing other than just hope.

Last season when John McDonlad's knee hit Morneau in the head, he was having another MVP-type season. He was hitting .345/.437/.618 with 18 homers and 56 RBI in 81 games. A full offseason didn't have him ready to return immediately to the field, as he missed some of spring training. He was there for opening day, but in 2011 he wasn't the same player he'd been before the injury, hitting just .227/.285/.333 with four homers and 30 RBI in 69 games.

MLB added a seven-day disabled list for those diagnosed with concussions and it's been a good first step. But we still don't know near enough to really understand the problem or how to combat it -- for now, vigilance and awareness are the two things that can be done and need to be expanded on by players and management. There's still a lot of ignorance out there about the problem -- just read any entry here on Morneau or concussions and you'll see comments from people telling them to "man up" or "get over it," implying that if no bone is broken, it's not a real injury and players should be on the field.  That type of fundamental misunderstand of concussions is what many health providers are fighting against. The bottom line is a concussion is a legitimate brain injury -- there's no such thing as a "minor" brain injury and anyone who questions the toughness of a player with such an injury aren't using that organ.

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Posted on: September 7, 2011 4:26 pm

On Deck: Wakefield goes for 200... again

On Deck

By Evan Brunell

Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

WakefieldWe've been here before: Tim Wakefield has been trying to get career win No. 200 for over a month now, and will be making his seventh start (eight games total) since gaining his 199th victory. Wakefield's future past 2011 is in doubt, so he's running out of chances for the milestone. He'll get another shot at it Wednesday against Toronto, and needs to avoid a lousy start to prevent his ERA going north of 5.00. Brandon Morrow is going for the Jays, and while his 4.78 ERA doesn't look impressive, his 3.45 xFIP suggests that Morrow's been better than advertised. Red Sox vs. Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. ET

OswaltBeachyBest matchup: The best pitching matchup pits one of Philadelphia's Big Four against Atlanta's Brandon Beachy -- and it's Beachy with the better ERA. Roy Oswalt has struggled with back injuries this year, but still has a 3.80 ERA entering play Wednesday. Beachy, though, is at 3.37. Beachy has been especially hot recently, registering a 2.79 ERA in his last six starts. Oswalt has his own streak, winning four of his last five games, as the Associated Press writes. This after winning just once in his last 10 turns. A victory tonight would put the Braves in a double-digit deficit for the division, as well as push Oswalt's win-loss record to .500 at 8-8. Braves vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m. ET

SoxTwinsFive in a row: The Twins made a pretty nice run of things in the middle months of the year to make them pseudo-contenders for a brief bit. Alas, they're back to their losing ways, and will seek to avoid five straight losses when Carl Pavano goes up against John Danks. Chicago is pretty much out of the division race too at 8 1/2 back, but don't tell that to Ozzie Guillen. "We're still in the pennant race," he told the AP. "I know it's going to be hard. ... One thing about it, we're not going to quit." That's all well and good, but it's over, Ozzie. It's over. By the way, this is the last time these two teams face each other in 2011, and the White Sox are on a 8-1 roll against the Twins. With a win tonight, Chicago would take the season series, 10 wins to 8 losses. A loss puts them in a tie. White Sox vs. Twins, 8:10 p.m. ET

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Category: MLB
Tags: Twins, White Sox
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com