Justin Morneau takes outdoor batting practice for the first time

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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.

Yadier Molina responds to Willson Contreras on Instagram

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On Monday, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras showed he was very confident heading into the 2018 season, saying, “I know that I’m going to be better than [Yadier Molina and Buster Posey].” Contreras explained that his goal is to become “the best catcher in the game for a long time — like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey.”

Apparently, Contreras ruffled Molina’s feathers as the Cardinals’ veteran backstop took to Instagram to respond. Posting a picture of himself with Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, Molina wrote, “Respeten los rangos NOVATOS!! aqui con los q si han probao que son los duros!!” That loosely translates to “respect the ranks,” referring to Contreras as a novice.

Molina is no stranger to using Instagram to air his grievances. He apparently used the social media app to take a swipe or two at manager Mike Matheny last year.

Of course, Molina seems to be misreading the intent of Contreras. Contreras seems to think highly of Molina, having referred to him as being one of the best catchers in the game — even if it was in the past tense. Molina should know, being someone who also competes at the highest level, that having confidence is an important part of the recipe for success. Perhaps this will make for some interesting games during the season, breathing new life into the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.