Justin Morneau is back in the Twins’ lineup, coming off the disabled list slightly ahead of schedule following neck surgery six weeks ago.
Morneau sped up his return timetable by going 11-for-30 (.367) with a homer and four doubles in seven games at Triple-A, reportedly texting various Twins decision-makers to tell them he wanted back in the lineup before next week.
Morneau hasn’t played since June 9 and hasn’t played well since suffering a concussion 13 months ago, as the former MVP missed the second half of last season and then hit just .225 with four homers and a .619 OPS in 55 games this year.
With his return the Twins are basically fully healthy for the first time since early April, but unfortunately all the injuries combined with some sub par performances from key players leaves Minnesota with very slim playoff hopes even in a terrible division. Morneau showing he’s healthy and putting up some big numbers down the stretch would be a nice consolation prize, though.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.