CLEVELAND (AP) — For a brief moment Friday, the Minnesota Twins’ opening-day lineup was ready to take the field.
Justin Morneau, the first baseman and former American League MVP, was activated from the disabled list two months after neck surgery. His return meant manager Ron Gardenhire finally had his team intact as the Twins opened a key road trip to AL Central rivals Cleveland and Detroit.
The good feeling didn’t last for long. Michael Cuddyer, one of only two regulars who hadn’t missed time to injuries this year, hurt his neck during early batting practice and was scratched.
“From 2 to 2:25, we had our team back,” Gardenhire said. “We had 25 solid minutes with everybody out there. I felt pretty good for those 25 minutes, to tell you the truth.”
By the time Gardenhire spoke to reporters before the game against the Indians, he said Cuddyer’s neck was feeling better. The Twins right fielder was to be examined by doctors Friday.
“He popped something in his neck on his last swing,” Gardenhire said. “He was hurting. He was in a lot of pain.”
Cuddyer is batting .295 and leads the team with 18 homers and 61 RBIs in 112 games.
Morneau, a career .286 hitter going into the season, was obviously affected by his injury. He’s hitting .225 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 55 games.
“It was a battle every day,” Morneau said. “When you’re used to performing a certain way and you can’t do that, it’s frustrating for everyone. It’s not a lot of fun to sit in the trainer’s room and the guys are out there playing.”
Prior to the surgery, Morneau was feeling weakness from his left shoulder down to his hand. He’s still feeling numbness in one of his fingers.
“The strength down my arm and shoulder is a lot better, but the numbness could take awhile,” Morneau said. “They said some people get instant relief and some don’t. That’s not something I’m too worried about.”
“It’s fun to see Mornie,” Gardenhire said. “He’s fired up. He took some early swings. The ball was jumping off his bat.”
Morneau and fellow franchise cornerstone Joe Mauer have only been in the lineup together in nine of the last 198 games, including the playoffs.
“It feels great to be back,” Morneau said. “As far as my swing, I feel like I can drive the ball to all fields.”
Designated hitter Jim Thome, two homers short of 600 for his career, has been limited to 61 games with various aches and pains. Danny Valencia is the only regular who hasn’t missed time to injuries.
The Twins placed reserve outfielder Jason Repko on the 15-day DL because of bursitis in his left shoulder to make room for Morneau. Minnesota also activated second baseman Alexi Casilla (right hamstring strain) from the DL and optioned infielder Trevor Plouffe to Rochester. Casilla started at second base Friday.
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