Justin Morneau has been cleared to resume “baseball activities” three weeks after undergoing surgery to address a pinched nerve in his neck, which according to trainer Rick McWane means “he’s ready to take ground balls, play catch, and run around.”
Swinging the bat will come later, however, so even setting aside the Twins’ inability to get any injured players back within their initial return timetables this season Morneau is unlikely to be ready before mid-August.
Minnesota has used Michael Cuddyer as the primary Morneau replacement, shifting him from right field to first base, but Joe Mauer and Luke Hughes have also gotten starts at first base recently while Trevor Plouffe has become a semi-regular in right field.
Between back surgery in 2009, a concussion in 2010, and neck surgery this season Morneau has played just 271 of the Twins’ last 486 games.
The Rays acquired minor league reliever Drew Smith from the Tigers on Friday, per a team announcement. The move will close the loop on the trade the two teams began in January for backup outfielder Mikie Mahtook.
Smith, 23, pitched his first full season in Single-A West Michigan in 2016, turning in a 2.96 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 11.5 SO/9 in 48 2/3 innings. The right-hander is still several levels away from making any impact on the Rays’ major league roster, but appears to be progressing steadily in two seasons of pro ball and has delivered two runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts in his first 11 2/3 innings at High-A Lakeland this season. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that he’ll be reassigned to the Rays’ High-A Charlotte this week.
The Yankees have activated shortstop Didi Gregorius from the 10-day disabled list, the club announced on Friday. Infielder Pete Kozma was designated for assignment to clear roster space.
Gregorius, 27, suffered a strained right shoulder while playing in the World Baseball Classic last month. He’s in Friday’s starting lineup, batting sixth against the Orioles.
Last season, Gregorius hit .276/.304/.447 with 20 home runs and 70 RBI in 597 plate appearances.