Morneau catch

Twins are “optimistic” that Justin Morneau “will be ready for spring training”

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Initially expected to be sidelined for less than a week, Justin Morneau ended up missing the final three months of the season and the playoffs after suffering a concussion from a knee to the helmet while trying to break up a double play on July 7.

There’s been little said about his status since the Twins were swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees, but today general manager Bill Smith told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that Morneau is “increasing his workload” and the team is “optimistic he will be ready for spring training.”

Twins pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Florida on February 17, giving Morneau another month or so to get ready, but unfortunately with concussions it’s tough to truly tell if someone is healthy until they ramp up physical activity all the way. Morneau tried to do that several times during the season only to suffer a setback when his post-concussion symptoms returned.

His status is likely effecting the Twins’ efforts to re-sign Jim Thome, because if Morneau is healthy and Thome re-signs Minnesota would have five hitters (Morneau, Thome, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel) for just four lineup spots, which is the same logjam that led to Thome starting just 34 of 84 games before Morneau’s concussion.

Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune is among multiple sources reporting that the Rangers are making a strong push for Thome, who could be looking for more playing time than the Twins can guarantee in addition to a multi-year commitment they’re likely hesitant to make to a 40-year-old designated hitter.

Albert Pujols passes Mark McGwire with 584th career home run

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 11: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs out a double during the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 11, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Angels 14-3. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.

Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.

Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.

Zach Britton allowed an earned run for the first time since April 30

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 22:  Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches for his 38th save in the ninth inning during a baseball game against the the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 22, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Oriole won 4-3.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.

The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.

Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.