Justin Morneau took outdoor batting practice against live pitching today for the first time, which is a big step as he continues what is now an eight month-long recovery from a concussion suffered on July 7.
Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com reports that Morneau took 40 swings, “hit five balls over the fence, and kept a light mood, joking with teammates and coaches.”
Morneau also fielded ground balls at first base and participated in double play drills, the movements for which have triggered the post-concussion symptoms in the past. He’ll wear sunglasses for all workouts to avoid any sun-fueled triggers.
At this point the Twins have indicated that Morneau probably won’t play during the first two weeks of the exhibition schedule, so he still has plenty of hurdles to clear before being in the Opening Day lineup is likely.
Thursday is September 1, which means rosters expand. As a result, the Nationals plan to promote pitcher Mat Latos to the major league roster, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Latos had an opt-out clause for Monday, but after discussing the matter with the team, he agreed to stay at Triple-A Syracuse until Thursday.
Latos, 28, put up a 4.62 ERA over 11 starts with the White Sox before being released in mid-June. Nearly two weeks later, he signed a minor league contract with the Nationals.
In the Nationals’ minor league system, Latos has made three starts for the club’s Gulf Coast League team as well as three for Syracuse. In aggregate, the right-hander has yielded six runs (four earned) on 20 hits and 10 walks with 28 strikeouts in 28 innings.
Latos will likely pitch out of a long relief role for the Nationals and can be used as starting rotation insurance as well.
Mark Buehrle hasn’t officially retired, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in professional baseball since last October. Still, the Blue Jays wouldn’t mind having some insurance, so manager John Gibbons recently texted Buehrle, “You know, rosters expand in September,” Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports.
Buehrle’s response? He texted back a picture of a lake. Sounds like he’s not interested in making a return, at least this year.
Last year, at the age of 36, Buehrle went 15-8 with a 3.81 ERA with a 91/33 K/BB ratio in 198 2/3 innings while leading the league with four complete games. He fell 1 1/3 innings shy of a 15th consecutive 200-inning season. There are many worse ways to end a career.