Justin Morneau will be in the Twins’ Opening Day lineup

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After spending eight months on the sidelines following a concussion last July the Twins have their cleanup hitter back, as manager Ron Gardenhire announced today that Justin Morneau will be in the Opening Day lineup when Minnesota kicks off the season in Toronto tomorrow night.

Gardenhire told reporters that he plans to give Morneau frequent days off early in the season, which the Twins are uniquely positioned to do thanks to Jim Thome’s presence on the bench. On days Morneau doesn’t start Thome will be in the lineup at designated hitter, Jason Kubel will move to right field, and Michael Cuddyer will take over at first base.

That’s the arrangement the Twins used in the second half last season with Morneau on the disabled list, but it’ll be interesting to see how Gardenhire finds playing time for Thome and his 1.039 OPS if Morneau proves healthy enough to play nearly every day. One of Kubel, Cuddyer, or Delmon Young would have to be on the bench.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.