One of baseball’s best stories of 2014 is the resurgence of Justin Morneau
Morneau, who was the American League’s MVP Award winner in 2006 with the Minnesota Twins, experienced a career-changing event prior to the All-Star break in 2010. He took a knee in the head from Toronto Blue Jays infielder John McDonald while sliding on a double-play grounder.
Morneau suffered a concussion, and the symptoms lasted for about a year and a half. He had other physical problems too, including a pinched nerve in his neck and a bone spur in his right foot. But he persevered, and last August started to show the power he used to wield against opposing pitchers by hitting nine home runs.
Morneau became a free agent after last season and was signed by the Colorado Rockies, who were looking for a veteran first baseman to replace Todd Helton. Former Twins’ teammate Michael Cuddyer helped sell Morneau to the Rockies, and convince Morneau to join them. Morneau signed a two-year, $12.5 million contract to play for Colorado.
The concussion symptoms seemed to be a thing of the past.
“There was a time there that I’d do certain things and wonder if I was going to bring on symptoms,” Morneua said after signing with the Rockies. “But now it seems like I’m able to get through pretty much any activity without even having a second thought or any hesitation on what I’m doing.”
Morneau played 11 seasons and had a .277 career average going into this year. He is a four-time All-Star. In 2006, he hit .321 with 34 homers and 130 RBIs.
The season before his injury, Morneau hit 30 homers and drove in 100 runs. Once he started playing regularly again, his numbers dropped significantly. Morneau hit a combined 36 home runs with 154 RBIs over two seasons in 2012-13. His average fell to .267 and .259. The Twins traded Morneau to Pittsburgh late last season for the Pirates’ playoff run.
This year with Colorado, Morneau is batting .307 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs, and is on a pace to have his best season at the plate since 2009. He’s had some big games, such as on June 15 when he hit a two-run double in the eighth inning to give the Rockies the lead in an eventual 8-7 win over San Francisco. And on June 25 when he hit a three-run homer and knocked in six runs in a 10-5 win over St. Louis.
Morneau was selected to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby the day before the All-Star Game.
Gallo leads U.S. in Futures Game: Texas Rangers prospect Joey Gallo was named the MVP of Sunday’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Minneapolis. Gallo, who plays third base, hit the go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning to lead the U.S. team to a 3-2 win over the World Team at Target Field in Minneapolis.
“This one is definitely the most memorable one,” said Gallo, who is tied for the Minor League with 31 home runs this season. “To do it in front of 37,000 people is crazy.”
Chicago Cubs’ top prospect Javier Baez gave the World Team the lead with two-run homer in the top of the sixth.
StatsWatch: Here are the major league leader’s at the All-Star break –
Batting: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies, .345
Home Runs: Jose Abreu, White Sox, 29
RBIs: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, 75
Wins: Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees; Rick Porcello, Tigers; Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; Alfredo Simon, Reds, 12 each.
ERA: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 1.79
Saves: Craig Kimbrel, Braves, 29
Diamond Notes: The Atlanta Braves suspended second baseman Dan Uggla on Sunday for an “internal matter,” according to manager Fredi Gonzalez. Uggla has had his playing time reduced since rookie Tommy La Stella was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett on May 28. Uggla, a three-time All-Star, is hitting .162 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 48 games…Babe Ruth’s 1918 contract with the Boston Red Sox was sold at auction on Saturday night for $1.02 million. The winning bid is the highest price ever paid for a sports contract. The buyer wished to remain anonymous.
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