After putting up impressive numbers in the first portion of the season, former MVP award winner Justin Morneau set himself up for a career year. Poor performances in the months of August and September saw his average drop and his projections go with. Now however, there might be an explanation.
A test has revealed that Morneau has a stress fracture in his back, and while no surgery is required for such an injury, his season is over. While the team stands at 72-72 on the season and 5.5 games back of Detroit with seven games remaining against them and 18 remaining overall, any run at the playoffs will need to be completed without one of the league’s best players.
Morneau’s loss however could lead to another player’s gain. The Twins in no way will be better off without Morneau, but his absence will ensure consistent playing time for both Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young over the final stretch of the season.
Through much of the season, the outfield has consisted of both Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer day in and day out with Gomez and Young rotating in the final spot. Cuddyer will move up in the order and up down the right field line to first base while both Gomez and Young will receive opportunities to prove their worth not only for the remainder of this season, but possibly for the next one too.
Through 81 games, Morneau was on pace for a .311 average to go along with 38 homeruns and 131 RBI. Now his season is over after just 135 games. Morneau’s average dropped 28 points in the past month, leading to questions about his health. How long Morneau played through the pain is uncertain, but the team and fans finally have a good answer for his drop in production.
The season has been cut short for Morneau, but the left-handed slugger still reached key milestones with 30 homeruns and 100 RBI during the 2009 season. With rest and rehab he should be fully healthy by the end of the year and ready for the inaugural season at Target Field next spring.