Twins need to play it safe with Morneau

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Minnesota Twins won the American League Central last season with first baseman Justin Morneau on the shelf for the stretch run.

If the Twins are going to reach the postseason again this season, they may very well have to do so without the services of the former American League Most Valuable Player - again.

Morneau has not played since suffering a concussion back on July 7, when he was kneed in the head by Toronto's John McDonald while trying to break up a double play. It doesn't appear that he'll be returning anytime soon.

Morneau took batting practice earlier this week for the first time since the incident, and although it seemed to go well, he admitted afterwards that he still has lingering effects from the concussion and has yet to make it through an entire day symptom-free.

With the way teams treat head injuries these days, don't be surprised if we have seen the last of Morneau this season, especially given the recent findings from a group of Boston-area doctors who suggested that concussions and other brain trauma could mimic a disease like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Justin Morneau has not played since suffering a concussion back on July 7.
Although the study did not mention Yankee legend Lou Gehrig by name, the implication was that he may not have died from the disease that bears his name, but rather he may have succumbed to something that was brought on by the numerous concussions he suffered throughout his baseball career, and even further back while playing football in high school and at Columbia University.

Bottom line, Morneau would be - no pun intended - out of his mind to try to rush back this season.

Heading into action on Thursday, Minnesota finds itself five games ahead of Chicago in the American League Central with the chance to make it six by the end of the day if they can complete a three-game sweep of the White Sox at Target Field.

Morneau does not have to look far for advice either, as former teammate and fellow Canadian native Corey Koskie had his career cut short due to a concussion he suffered in 2006. Koskie managed to play for Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic in 2009, but never played another major league game, admitting that it took him over two years just to feel "normal" again.

Is there a chance that Morneau never plays again? I guess the possibility is there. I think he probably will, but who is to say? Everyone is wired differently. There are plenty of people who come back fine after sitting out awhile following a concussion, then there are cases like Koskie, or NHLers like Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine, both of whom had their careers diminished because of hits to the head.

The New York Mets are dealing with a similar situation concerning outfielder Jason Bay, who has been sidelined since July 25 with a concussion. Bay actually played two more games after he sustained the concussion while crashing into a wall before shutting it down after having headaches on a flight back to New York.

With the Mets clearly fading out of the playoff picture in the National League, there is absolutely no need for him to come back anytime soon. It would be silly of Bay to even entertain coming back at this point, when we know for sure the one thing that is needed in these cases is rest.

Most Mets fans would probably agree, anyway, that Bay looked as if he had been playing concussed most of the season, given his awful .259 average and whopping six home runs and 47 runs driven in.

Morneau, though, is an entirely different case. He was in the running for another MVP award at the time of his injury. With or without Morneau, though, it is starting to look like the Twins are the class of their division. Getting Morneau back would probably make it a certainty.

That said, I don't think we are going to see him again this season. And it's for his own good.

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