Things can hardly seem to go right for the Minnesota Twins lately. For every win over Roy Halladay, there’s a near sweep at the hands of the punchless A’s. Often, when things finally seem to be headed in the right direction, the Twins either find themselves no better for their effort because the Tigers, too, have improved, or soon find their good fortunes have faded away.
So it was on Monday.
The Twins made Indians lefty Jeremy Sowers look like Greg Maddux reborn as he held the team to just six hits and no runs in his seven innings of work. Perhaps the Twins were just playing rope-a-dope with them, or perhaps someone gave an impassioned dugout speech to inspire everyone to new levels of greatness, something like:
Joe Mauer: If we don’t win this game, I’m signing with the Cubs after the 2010 season.
Irrespective of reason, the Twins came out firing on all cylinders in the eighth, scoring six runs on four hits, a walk, and an error. Home runs by Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer brought the Twins from the edge of defeat to barely a save opportunity for Joe Nathan.
However, Detroit’s win on a walk-off error meant the Twins heroics served only to prevent them from falling further behind in AL Central’s nearly annual “Race To the Bottom”.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Twins got a double punch of bad news on the medical front.
The story that gained the most attention was Justin Morneau pronouncing himself done for the season. A stress fracture in his L5 vertebra was simply too painful to play through anymore and it was affecting his play.
Indeed, Morneau indicated that he’d been feeling the effects of the injury for three to four weeks; over that time he hit just .122 with two home runs, which is pretty clear indication that something wasn’t right.
The healing time for an injury of this nature is three to four months, meaning Morneau will likely be a little rusty when he comes to camp, but not nearly as bad as Joe Mauer post-kidney surgery.
This isn’t a back injury like Joe Crede’s, it isn’t likely to recur, which makes me disappointed that Morneau is hurt, but not terribly concerned about it's long lasting effects.
The Twins' other piece of injury news is much more worrisome to me.
Pitcher Kevin Slowey, out since early July with a chip fracture in his wrist, underwent a second surgery on the site, this time to implant two metal screws into the area. The surgery was, as it always seems to be, a success, so that’s good news. However, that he needed a second surgery at all makes me a little skittish. Slowey won’t begin throwing until November, which puts him well behind the previous timetable for his return.
Still, this isn’t elbow or shoulder surgery, and Slowey should return in time for the regular season, albeit about one percent more metallic than he was last season.
The concern he is why he needed a second surgery two months after the previous one. Injuries to pitchers, even ones that don’t affect the kinetic chain, can alter their motion and lead to different injuries or wholesale ineffectiveness.
Slowey will have enough time and guidance for his rehab that I think he should be ok, but he’s a big part of the Twins’ future and if he can’t be effective next year, it puts the Twins in an even tougher situation.
What should be taken away from both of these injuries, as well as Crede finally giving up his ghost, is that the Twins focus right now should be on next season. They aren’t the first team to have their dreams of postseason glory shattered by a rash of injuries, and I think the Mets are hosting this year’s iteration of that pity party, so they can’t even take solace in that.
Yes, they still have a mathematical shot at the playoffs, but in all honesty, I think it could be counterproductive in the long run for them to make it, but that’s another article entirely.
In the end, Monday was a pretty good microcosm of the season to date. Yes, the Twins scored a great comeback win and it was really fun to watch. But reality sets in quickly and between injuries and another miracle Tigers win, it all seems to be one step forward, two steps back.