MINNEAPOLIS (AP)— Just as Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are getting closer to returning to the Minnesota Twins, Justin Morneau is headed to the disabled list.
The Twins shelved their first baseman on Tuesday night with a strained left wrist, making the announcement a few minutes after their series opener against the Chicago White Sox was rained out. Morneau’s wrist will be immobilized for 10 days, but general manager Bill Smith said the team did not anticipate an extended stay on the DL.
Morneau was trying to avoid the disabled list, but the 2006 AL MVP hasn’t played since Friday, and a cortisone shot he received on Sunday had yet to take.
“We’ve waited about as long as we can,” Smith said.
Morneau said the injury made him feel as if he was swinging one-handed. He met with a specialist on Tuesday afternoon, and doctors told him he needed rest, followed by a few days to regain his range of motion.
“No matter what I want to play,” said Morneau, who talked his way out of a DL stint earlier this season when he had a sore neck. “But if it comes to the point where I’m not doing myself any good or anyone on the team any good … If I’m able to play the way I want to play and the way everybody expects me to play that’s one thing, but I’m in pain and being, I wouldn’t say useless but not very good, I don’t think that does anyone on the team any good.”
Morneau is hitting .225 with four home runs and 21 RBIs this season. He’s received cortisone shots in his neck and now in his hand, a frustrating season for him after missing the final three months of last year with a concussion.
Morneau joins Nishioka (broken leg), Mauer (leg and shoulder injuries), Jim Thome (strained left quadriceps), outfielder Jason Kubel (sprained left foot), reliever Joe Nathan (right elbow), outfielder Denard Span (concussion), reliever Glen Perkins (strained right oblique) and right-hander Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) on an incredibly bloated disabled list.
Morneau said he wasn’t sure how he injured his wrist. He said he woke up one morning during the team’s previous homestand and it was sore.
“It was weird,” he said. “I don’t know if I aggravated it on a throw up the line because it was a little sore before that. I know it was sometime in the last homestand.”
The Twins did not immediately announce a makeup date for the rainout, which was the third at Target Field this season. A Twins spokesman said it would not happen during this series, and the White Sox come to town twice more this season, once in August and once in September.
On the bright side, Mauer and Nishioka appear to be close to returning from long absences.
Nishioka played in just six games before breaking his left leg against the New York Yankees. He was scheduled to play for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday night and Smith said the Japanese infielder would travel to the Twin Cities on Wednesday assuming all goes well.
Perkins was slated to pitch for Rochester on Tuesday night and is scheduled to join Nishioka on the flight to Minneapolis.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the team has yet to decide where Nishioka will play when he does return, but all signs point to him taking over at shortstop, with the improving Alexi Casilla moving to second base.
Mauer has played in only seven games due to various leg and shoulder injuries. He is scheduled to face Nathan in a batting practice session on Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla., and will be evaluated after that. It is possible the 2009 AL MVP could be back in a uniform by the weekend, but the Twins were not putting a timetable on that.
All the injuries have played a major role in the team’s stunningly poor start. The two-time defending AL Central champions started the season an MLB-worst 17-37 to fall 16 1/2 games behind the division-leading Indians.
“We’re close to getting a lot of these guys back and that’s going to help this club,” Smith said.
The short-handed Twins have turned things around over the last two weeks, winning nine of their previous 11 games to cut their deficit to nine games when the day began. Getting Nishioka, Mauer and Perkins, who had emerged as their best reliever before getting hurt, back in the big leagues should only help matters.
“We have people that we we’re counting on heavily and when we get all of our team back out there we expect it to be good,” Gardenhire said. “Really good. I hope.”
NOTES: Former Twins RHP Jesse Crain was back at Target Field for the first time since signing with the White Sox in the offseason. Gardenhire raved about Crain’s time in Minnesota, including his contributions on the field and in the community. “Total respect here, but now that he’s in that uniform, we want to knock the living fire out of him,” Gardenhire said with a smile.
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