Let’s start with the bad news first.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Twins MVP candidate Justin Morneau will miss the remainder of the season because of a stress fracture in his lower back. This just sucks out loud if you are a Twins fan.
Morneau has a fracture of the L5 vertebrae in his lower back, but will not need surgery. The recovery time is expected to be three months and Morneau should be ready by Spring Training in 2010.
Morneau is having a typical Morneau season – .271 with 30 HR’s and 100 RBI in 135 games for the Twins. Despite being only 5.5 games behind the first place Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, it will be almost impossible for the Twins to catch the Tigers without their star first baseman.
Look for Michael Cuddyer to get the majority of playing time at first in place of Morneau.
Now for the good news, or maybe not based on how he has pitched this year. Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-5, 8.23 ERA) will make his first start for the Boston Red Sox since June 19th, against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tonight at Fenway Park.
I can honestly tell you that I have no idea what to expect from Matsuzaka tonight. He could pitch his typical two hits, four walks, five strikeouts, and one run in five innings or he could get bombed by a solid Angels lineup in three innings of work. Neither would shock me.
Here is what I do know. The Red Sox desperately need Matsuzaka to pitch like he did in 2008 (18-3, 2.90 ERA) in order for them to have a chance at a World Series title in 2009.
I have confidence in Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz in the first three spots in the Red Sox playoff rotation. I have ZERO confidence in Tim Wakefield and Paul Byrd in Game Four of any playoff series. This is where Matsuzaka comes in.
If he can come back healthy and pitch with as much determination as he shows when he pitches for Japan in the WBC, then the Red Sox will have a solid one through four heading into the postseason.