The biggest question mark facing the Twins coming into the season was whether Justin Morneau would be in the lineup after missing the final three months of last season following a concussion.
Morneau got a late start in spring training, got a few days off early in the schedule, and has spent more time at designated hitter than ever before, but he’s been free of post-concussion symptoms while starting 34 of the Twins’ first 40 games.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit.
Morneau, who was batting .345 with a 1.055 OPS at the time of the concussion last July, has hit just .223 with one homer and a .617 OPS this season. In addition to non-existent power and a batting average 60 points below his career norms Morneau is also striking out more than usual and walking less than ever before.
This could be just an optimistic Twins fan talking, but Morneau has seemed fairly unlucky in terms of hard-hit balls hauled in by outfielders in the gaps, and his .264 batting average on balls in play is 30 points below his career mark. However, he’s also hitting fewer line drives and fewer deep fly balls, and Parker Hageman of Over The Baggy broke down Morneau’s swing mechanics and found that they’ve changed for the worse, which along with timing issues following nine months on the sidelines has led to his lack of production.
Morneau’s health was the elephant in the room all offseason, yet so far he’s been healthy, nearly everyone else on the roster has been injured, and the Twins have the worst record in baseball. It’s been that kind of season in Minnesota.
Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?
Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.
Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.
Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.
Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.
Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.