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.
The Cardinals went from winning 100 games last season to 82 entering Wednesday evening’s game, and they might not even make the playoffs. Still, the organization will bring back manager Mike Matheny for the 2017 season, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Owner Bill DeWitt, Jr. said, “Mike’s done a really good job for us. There’s no thought that we’re going to go in any different direction.”
GM John Mozeliak also expressed his support, saying, “Mike takes a lot of heat, and I’ve defended him and I will continue to. I really feel like some of the things that we’re dealing with aren’t fair to put on the manager.”
Mozeliak continued, “I do feel like all of us are always held accountable for what we do here, so there’s nobody excluded from that. But having said that, I don’t look at him as someone that we are where we are because of that.”
Matheny has received criticism for his bullpen usage, but the Cardinals have only 15 blown saves as a team, the fourth-lowest total in baseball this season.
The Phillies’ bullpen led to yet another loss on Tuesday. Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, and David Hernandez combined to allow six runs in five innings, allowing the Braves to come back and win 7-6 after falling behind 6-0 after the first two innings.
The game prior, the Phillies’ bullpen surrendered 14 runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the Mets. The game before that, the bullpen yielded four runs in four innings, nearly squandering the Phillies’ 10-0 lead after four innings. And last Thursday, the Phillies had taken an 8-6 lead in the top of the 11th, but Edubray Ramos served up a walk-off three-run home run to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s been a tough month.
Manager Pete Mackanin ripped the bullpen when speaking to the media after Tuesday’s game. Via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly:
Neris was going to close for us. I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That’s unheard of.
The Phillies currently own the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.97. Only the Rockies (5.12), Reds (5.07), and Diamondbacks (4.98) have been worse.
In fairness to the bullpen, aside from Jeanmar Gomez (who lost his job as closer earlier this month) and free agent signee David Hernandez, the bullpen is intentionally comprised of young, inexperienced pitchers as the Phillies are still rebuilding. If the Phillies were aiming for a playoff spot, it would be one thing, but the struggles are to be expected when one throws 24-year-olds into the deep end.