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.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: