Morneau takes BP, may aim for ALCS return

Morneau takes BP, may aim for ALCS return

MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau has ruled out the possibility of returning to the field in time for the Twins' American League Division Series that begins on Wednesday. But the first baseman remains hopeful he'll be able to play for the Twins in the postseason.

Morneau took batting practice and fielded ground balls at first base Thursday afternoon at Target Field. He has not played since suffering a concussion on July 7 in Toronto, when he was accidentally kneed in the head by Blue Jays second baseman John McDonald while trying to break up a double play.

The first baseman said he has been asymptomatic since Sunday, which is when it was decided that the time was "now or never" for Morneau to push himself a little more if he was going to try to make it back this season.

"I wouldn't be out here if that wasn't my goal," an upbeat Morneau said after his on-field work. "The first goal is just getting back to feeling normal, and I think we're there. The second thing is being able to do baseball activities without having any hesitation or any second thought."

Morneau said that it's just not realistic for him to be ready to get back on the field by Wednesday, having missed close to three months due to the concussion. But he's hopeful that he might be able to return for the American League Championship Series should the Twins advance past the first round.

"It's been a very good few days," Morneau said. "We'll see how it goes the rest of the day. This is the first day being outside doing everything for a while. ... It's a positive, and we're hoping it just keeps going like this every day, and we'll see where we're at."

The biggest test for Morneau in his recovery has not been feeling good during his workout, but rather to see whether the symptoms appear later in the day. If Morneau remains symptom-free Thursday while he watches the Twins' game against the Blue Jays from the bench and wakes up Friday feeling good, he said he'll take part in Minnesota's full pregame workout on Friday.

"It was nice to see him out on a baseball field, moving around, feeling good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "His legs are underneath him. He's been running, doing all of those things. We'll see him do some more the next few days and see how it goes."

Morneau still stressed that his recovery is still "day-to-day." He'll have to keep seeing how he feels doing various activities, and even if he feels good, he will still need to see live pitching before he's ready to return. The Twins could set up simulated games for Morneau in Minnesota or he could travel to Fort Myers, Fla., to get at-bats in the instructional league. But as for his physical shape, he seems to be feeling good about where he stands.

"I'm obviously not in game shape," said Morneau, who batted .345 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 81 games before the injury. "But I think I'm ahead of where I would be at the start of Spring Training."

Morneau and his wife, Krista, welcomed their first child last week. Daughter Evelyn was born on Sept. 23, and Morneau said that her arrival has seemed to help his progress.

"I think if anything it's helped me relax a little bit more," Morneau said. "I had a lot going on there. The baby comes and that stress is out of the way. Stress is one of the biggest things that stops this thing from healing. I think it was a combination of: Are we going to win the division? Are we going to get to the playoffs? Am I going to get back? So many things were going on, and now it's all kind of settled down and I've felt a lot better."

As for what role Morneau could possibly play for the Twins if he returns, Gardenhire said that's looking too far ahead right now.

"I haven't really tried to envision anything with him right now other than his health, getting him healthy," Gardenhire said. "It's nice to see him out there running around, taking ground balls, and really past that, I don't see how we can go anywhere [with that yet]."

Right now, it seems that Morneau and the Twins are happy just to see the first baseman continue to make progress.

"If I came back and sat on the bench and was a pinch-hitter, it wouldn't make a difference to me if I'm healthy enough to play," Morneau said. "It's been something that's been fun to watch this year. The team has played well. Hopefully I can come back and be a part of that."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.