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.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.