Justin Morneau told reporters prior to last night’s game that he’s been playing through a pinched nerve in his neck that required cortisone shots and may lead to offseason surgery. And then he went out and homered twice against the Tigers.
Morneau’s season totals are still ugly, but he hit .264 with four homers and a .723 OPS in May after batting .224 with zero homers and a .592 OPS in April, so even with the neck problem now looming over his play there have been some encouraging signs as he tries to get back on track after missing eight months with a concussion.
Shoulder weakness is a symptom of the pinched nerve and Morneau explained that he expects the issue to linger all season. He’s already received two cortisone shots and has missed five of the Twins’ first 55 games, although some early time off was a precaution related to last year’s concussion.
Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.
Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.
With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.