After spending eight months on the sidelines following a concussion last July the Twins have their cleanup hitter back, as manager Ron Gardenhire announced today that Justin Morneau will be in the Opening Day lineup when Minnesota kicks off the season in Toronto tomorrow night.
Gardenhire told reporters that he plans to give Morneau frequent days off early in the season, which the Twins are uniquely positioned to do thanks to Jim Thome’s presence on the bench. On days Morneau doesn’t start Thome will be in the lineup at designated hitter, Jason Kubel will move to right field, and Michael Cuddyer will take over at first base.
That’s the arrangement the Twins used in the second half last season with Morneau on the disabled list, but it’ll be interesting to see how Gardenhire finds playing time for Thome and his 1.039 OPS if Morneau proves healthy enough to play nearly every day. One of Kubel, Cuddyer, or Delmon Young would have to be on the bench.
John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press reports that current free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord for damage to the rented property as well as missing artwork. The landlord is asking for $80,000 after having kept Rodriguez’s $15,000 security deposit.
The lawsuit says that Rodriguez damaged a bedroom TV, a crystal floor lamp, glass shelves in the bar, glass tiles in the master bath, and a Moroccan mirror in the powder room. Additionally, the suit claims that the bedding is stained and paint has chipped, as well as other damages. And the piece of art that is allegedly missing, which depicts a tiger, is valued at more than $10,000.
Rodriguez has not yet been served with the suit, but the landlord has been speaking to his managers.
The Nationals released Rodriguez, 35, two weeks ago after having signed him to a minor league contract in late June. He started the season with the Tigers, but struggled to a 7.82 ERA over 25 1/3 innings before being released.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Rays have acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets. The Mets will receive pitching prospect Drew Smith in return, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Duda, 31, is batting .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 291 plate appearances for the Mets this season. He’ll provide a potent bat in the Rays’ lineup as they attempt to overcome their current 2.5-game deficit in the AL East.
Smith, 23, is the Rays’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended from High-A to Triple-A already this season, posting an aggregate 1.60 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings across four stops with High-A Lakeland (Tigers), High-A Charlotte (Rays), Double-A Montgomery, and Triple-A Durham.