Justin Morneau is starting at first base and batting cleanup in this morning’s “B” game between the Twins and Pirates, marking the first time he’s been in any lineup since suffering a concussion more than eight months ago.
Normally a former MVP seeing game action for the first time since last July would have been big news, but the Twins have cut way back on their Morneau updates recently and gave zero warning to the media members in attendance.
Reporters on site first got the idea that he might be playing when Morneau participated in pre-game warmups and didn’t find out for sure that he was actually in the lineup until the Twins took the field for a game not broadcast on television or radio (although Kelly Thesier of MLB.com did snap that photo of his first at-bat).
Whatever the case, this qualifies as excellent news for the Twins and Morneau, who’s repeatedly stressed the positive progress he’s made recently in recovering from the concussion. He’s reportedly still not fully clear of post-concussion symptoms and the day after big workouts have given him the most trouble in the past, but given how patient the Twins have been throughout his recovery the fact that a doctor cleared him to return dramatically shifts his chances of being in the Opening Day lineup after that possibility seemed somewhat unlikely as recently as a few days ago.
UPDATE: Morneau grounded out to second base in his first at-bat. In his second at-bat he came to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered a three-run double.
On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.
The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.