Justin Morneau finished the spring in a frenzy, but it hasn’t carried over, as he’s hit just .206/.270/.353 with two RBI and 10 strikeouts in 34 at-bats since the regular season started. As a result, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has decided to drop him down to fifth in the lineup and insert Josh Willingham in between Joe Mauer and Morneau.
MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports that it’s the first time since April 4, 2008 that Mauer and Morneau have been in the lineup and not hit back-to-back. Mauer was a No. 2 hitter that day, with Michael Cuddyer hitting third ahead of Morneau.
Dropping Morneau in the lineup seemed like the smart choice from the moment Willingham was signed by the Twins, particularly against left-handers. If nothing else, it would have served to separate the team’s two (hopefully) potent left-handed bats. Gardenhire, though, wasn’t eager to take the step, and he wasn’t willing to have Willingham and Morneau ‘platoon’ between the two spots (batting Willingham fourth versus lefties and Morneau fourth against righties would have made tons of sense).
But if there’s some hurt feelings, hopefully Gardenhire can convince Morneau that this is less about him and more about Willingham, who has been one of the game’s hottest hitters with a .419/.514/.871 line to date. Morneau has actually been pretty good against righties so far, hitting .292. However, he’s 0-for-10 against lefties.
The Royals are a game and a half out of the crazy AL Wild Card race — six games back of the Indians in the division — so they don’t have a huge margin for error. They got some bad news last night, though, that could have a major impact on their playoff hopes: closer Kelvin Herrera experienced tightness in his right forearm in the ninth inning of last night’s win, forcing him out of the game.
Herrera walked the bases loaded, then went to a 2-0 count on the next batter before leaving the game. That last pitch was a fastball that clocked in at 91 m.p.h., which is NOT a typical Kelvin Herrera fastball. Herrera didn’t talk after the game but his teammate Sal Perez said that Herrera told him “I’m tight. I don’t feel my forearm.”
Reporters left the clubhouse before an official diagnosis or prognosis could be delivered, so expect an update some time today. If Herrera is out the closer duties could fall to Scott Alexander or Brandon Maurer.
Albert Pujols had a big night last night, driving in four runs as the Angels beat the Rangers 10-1. Three of those runs came on a three-run homer. That was the 610th home run of Pujols’ career, snapping a tie for eighth on the all-time list with Sammy Sosa. It also made him baseball’s all-time leader for home runs by a player born outside the U.S.
Pujols was aware of the accomplishment, of course, and noted how honored he was after the game:
”It’s pretty special. Obviously, all the great players from the Dominican Republic, Latin America, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, they’ve gone through the big leagues and to be able to accomplish something like this is very humbling.”
After Sosa, who is from the Dominican Republic, comes Rafael Palmeiro (569); Manny Ramirez (555); David Ortiz (541); Carlos Delgado (473); Jose Canseco (462); Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera (459).