Morneau's season ends with back injury

Morneau's season ends with back injury

MINNEAPOLIS -- If the Twins are going to make a push in the American League Central, they'll have to do so without their All-Star first baseman.

Justin Morneau will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his lower back. The hard-hitting Morneau had been battling back pain for weeks, but a CT scan and an MRI on Monday revealed the fracture.

"It's one of those things that's been nagging for a while," said Morneau, who also fought through back problems a season ago. "I just wanted to go in and see if it was anything different than last year."

Recovery for Morneau is expected to take three months, and he has been instructed by doctors to not do any running or heavy lifting during that time. Morneau added that he won't need surgery, saying the fracture should heal on its own.

"It's a stress fracture that could be worse," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Twins' 6-3 win over Indians. "It's actually a stress fracture where all we need to do is let it heal."

"I said, 'Is there anything I can do to make this go quicker?' And [the doctor] said, 'Well, just let Mother Nature take over,' " Morneau said. "It's just kind of one of those things that you let run its course. He's 99 percent sure it'll be back to normal, be healed."

Morneau missed the Twins' last two games before finding out he would be shelved for the remainder of the season. He had been playing with pain off and on, and his performance seemed to suffer as a result as of late. Morneau was hitting just .077 in September -- 3-for-39 with one home run -- to drop his season average to .274.

"You can play through the pain if you feel like you're helping the team or doing something to help your teammates out and win ballgames," Morneau said. "When you go out there and you don't feel like you're helping anyone, that's when you kind of take a step back and go, 'All right, maybe I'm doing more harm than good.' "

Morneau finishes the season with 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in, and was named to his third All-Star team this year. It's likely that Michael Cuddyer will assume most of the duties at first base for the remainder of the season as the Twins try to fill a big void left by Morneau's absence.

"He's a catalyst in the lineup," Minnesota pitcher Carl Pavano said of Morneau. "There's guys in here that are going to need to step up. He's definitely going to be missed, but this is his career we're talking about. He needs to get healthy. This is one of the best players in the Major Leagues."

Morneau seemed to be in good spirits after the Twins' win Monday, saying he expects to be on the bench cheering on his team as they play out the remaining 18 regular-season games.

"Hopefully I'll watch the boys go on a run here and play cheerleader and that's about it," Morneau said.

Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.