Minnesota didn’t know what to expect from Justin Morneau to begin the season, playing him at designated hitter instead of first base to avoid aggravating concussion symptoms and watching as he hit just .206 with a .623 OPS through nine games.
However, on Monday he felt good enough to play first base for the first time and Morneau also homered in that game. And then last night he homered again … and again.
Morneau went 3-for-4 with two homers versus the Yankees, which was his first multi-homer game since May 31, 2011. And in his fifth plate appearance manager Joe Girardi issued an intentional walk to Morneau, which was his first since June 1, 2011.
He’s hardly out of the woods yet, but for a guy who’s missed most of the past two seasons with concussions and multiple other injuries Morneau’s last 48 hours have been extremely encouraging. Overall for the season he’s now hitting .279 with four homers, two doubles, and a .945 OPS in 11 games.
Infielder Brett Lawrie successfully avoided arbitration and signed a one-year contract with the White Sox on Friday, per a team announcement. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman added that the deal was for $3.5 million, significantly lower than the $4.125 million Lawrie was paid by the White Sox in 2016.
The White Sox acquired Lawrie last December in a swap for minor league arms Zack Erwin and J.B. Wendelken. After splitting time at second and third base for the Athletics in 2015, Lawrie slotted in at second base and DH for the White Sox and batted .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs in 384 PA. While it’s strange to see a healthy, fairly productive player receive a salary reduction in arbitration, Lawrie missed nearly half of the season with a strain in his left hamstring, though he’s projected to return at full health by the start of the 2017 season.
Left-hander Brian Duensing signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, per a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.
The free agent spent the bulk of his 2016 season with the Orioles after receiving a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk in early June. He underwent elbow surgery several weeks later when a freak bullpen injury revealed cartilage chips and inflammation in his pitching elbow, but recovered to finish the season with a 4.05 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the club. The Orioles utilized him for a final out during the AL Wild Card game, during which Duensing recorded a five-pitch strikeout in the ninth inning of their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
The 33-year-old is currently expected to bulk up the Cubs’ left-handed relief corps, with fellow left-hander Mike Montgomery slated for the rotation in 2017.