Morneau to begin rehab assignment Friday

ANAHEIM — First baseman Justin Morneau, who underwent surgery to remove a herniated disk fragment in his neck on June 29, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester tomorrow, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who received the news from general manager Bill Smith.

“He’s flying out tonight and heading to Norfolk, Va. to meet the team and will begin a rehab assignment,” Gardenhire said. “I talked to Billy today, and he said that Morneau is chomping at the bit and ready to go. So we’ll see. I haven’t seen him, so I can’t tell you anything other than he’s ready to go in his opinion.”

Morneau, who started swinging the bat last Friday and has been taking batting practice and fielding ground balls at Target Field this week, was cleared by the Twins’ medical staff to make his return.

Morneau, who is hitting .225 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 55 games this year, was originally placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 10 with a sprained left wrist, before electing to undergo neck surgery later in the month. But Morneau is feeling healthy enough to start playing in games, despite undergoing surgery just a little more than a month ago.

“Physically, Tony Leo, our trainer, says there are no limitations,” Gardenhire said. “So we’re letting him go.”

Gardenhire, though, said he doesn’t have a timetable for Morneau’s return, as he’s not sure how many at-bats he’ll need before he’s ready to be activated from the disabled list to rejoin the Twins.

“I haven’t seen the schedule or what the plans are,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t know if he’s going to play five innings the first day or two. I haven’t seen anything. … He’s really believing that he’ll join us really soon, but I’m not buying that.”

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