CLEVELAND — The Twins’ season keeps getting stranger and stranger.
The Twins, who have had their fair share of injuries as they’ve utilized the disabled list 24 times, had their most bizarre injury news of the season tonight.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced before their game against the Indians that center fielder Denard Span and Danny Valencia were out of the lineup because they were involved in a fender bender last night while driving from Target Field to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
Span, driving in his Range Rover, was following Valencia — the passenger in his Range Rover Sport with his fiancée Jocelyn driving — when they encountered stop-and-go while turning from I-35 onto Hwy 62 West, and Span failed to stop and rear-ended Valencia’s car.
Both suffered whiplash and complained of headaches because of the accident, and were held out of the lineup as a result.
“It’s not funny but it’s typical,” said Gardenhire, who still couldn’t help but laugh when telling the story. “So that’s the reason why they’re really not in the lineup. Danny has a little bit of a stiff neck and Span is OK, and says he feels fine, but probably not a good night to start him out there.”
Valencia and Span were able to joke about the accident, as both cars suffered only minor damage, but it was still a scary moment, as all three passengers suffered whiplash and Valencia’s fiancée was checked out by doctors today.
“We all have whiplash,” Valencia said. “I have a headache right now, and instantly had a headache when it happened. So it’s unfortunate. But I was more concerned about [Span] because of his concussion symptoms. But I was happy he was doing better than I expected.”
Span, who has been dealing with concussion-like symptoms and migraines ever since he suffered a concussion in a home-plate collision on June 3, said the crash re-triggered his symptoms “a little bit.”
“It still hurts,” Span said. “I’m not going to lie. My head hurts and my neck is a little sore. I’m laughing but it’s not funny to be honest with you. It’s been a rough year for me. I just played Wednesday so for something like this to happen has been rough for me. But it could’ve been worse.”
With Valencia and Span out, only Matt Tolbert and Rene Rivera are available off the bench for tonight’s game. Luke Hughes is starting at second base, while Ben Revere is starting in center field.
“We need a rabbit’s foot,” Valencia said. “We have bad luck. And it’s unfortunate because when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. Yesterday was a positive day considering we had a great walk-off win and our first win in about two weeks, and then the next thing you know I think I had a bomb dropped off on my car.”
MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Morneau is the latest Twins player to be shut down for the season.
Two days after the club announced Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka won’t play again this year, Twins trainer Rick McWane said Morneau will be held out of action because of his concussion-like symptoms and will also have a cyst removed from his left knee this week.
“He’s been battling various ailments the last couple weeks in addition to his concussion symptoms and we’ve decided to shut him down,” McWane said. “He’s actually going to have surgery on his left knee sometime this week to remove a cyst that has been bothering him off and on for about a year.”
Morneau, who has also been sick with the flu in recent days, has been out with concussion symptoms stemming from a dive for a ground ball on Aug. 28.
He hoped to return as a designated hitter before the season ended, but his latest battle with the flu set him back, and the club hasn’t had a chance to evaluate his concussion symptoms the last few days.
“He’s been sick and throwing up and had a headache, so we haven’t had a chance to truly evaluate how he really feels,” McWane said. “But the knee surgery is a very simple surgery.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he wasn’t surprised by the decision, as there are just 10 days left in the season, and the training staff had been leaning toward shutting down Morneau.
“They’ve been talking about that over and over again,” Gardenhire said. “Then he got the flu bug and that kept him away for a couple days too. So we really haven’t been able to sit down with him and talk to him other than over the phone. He came in yesterday but hasn’t been doing too well.”
Morneau finishes the season with a .227 batting average, .285 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage along with four homers and 30 RBIs in just 69 games. He missed 56 games from mid-June until mid-August with a sprained left wrist and also underwent neck surgery on June 29.
Morneau, who played in just 81 games last season after suffering a concussion before the All-Star break, has missed 201 games over the last three years. It’s still unclear whether he’ll be able to remain at first base next season, or if he’ll be limited to serving as the club’s designated hitter.
“It’s just the unknown,” Gardenhire said. “I was hoping we’d have a better idea of having him on the field and taking some swings but it didn’t work out. So I won’t have any answers until we get to Spring Training.”
MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Mauer’s season is over.
The catcher visited the Mayo Clinic yesterday and was diagnosed with mild pneumonia, as the symptoms from his upper respiratory infection that caused him to miss two games early this month never went away.
“On Sept. 2 he was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, and despite medication symptoms have not resolved,” Twins trainer Rick McWane said. “In Kansas City, he complained of a consistent cough. Yesterday, he went to the Mayo Clinic and was diagnosed with mild pneumonia. The recommendation is medication and rest for two weeks.”
It ends a tumultuous year for Mauer, who played in just 82 games this year, as he dealt with various injuries ranging from bilateral leg weakness to a stiff neck and finally his bout with pneumonia.
Mauer, who started only 47 games behind the plate, finishes the season with career lows in batting average (.287), on-base percentage (.369), slugging percentage (.368) and home runs (three).
Mauer, in the first year of an eight-year, $184 million deal signed before last season, wasn’t happy about the diagnosis, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.
“He’s pretty upset,” Gardenhire said. “He’s sick right now, but in talking with him today, he’s not very happy. He’s pretty upset about it. He’s going to have to do with the doctors say and take care of himself physically. But he really is not happy about the situation and wants to be out there and be here with the guys.”
ANAHEIM — Twins top pitching Kyle Gibson, who was diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament earlier this month, will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Wednesday.
The Twins were hopeful Gibson could rehab his injury in Fort Myers, Fla. without surgery, but Twins general manager Bill Smith said Gibson will instead have the surgery done by Dr. David Altchek in New York. The recovery time is usually about 12 months.
“Kyle Gibson has completed the initial phase of the rehab program at our training facilities in Fort Myers,” said Smith in an e-mail. “Based on the results, and in consultation with Kyle and our medical staff, the best treatment is to proceed with ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, also known as Tommy John surgery.”
Gibson was officially diagnosed with a flexor pronator muscle strain of the right elbow and a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament on Aug. 9. He received a second opinion from Altchek on his injured right elbow in New York on Aug. 22, but was told to finish the initial phase of his rehab before deciding whether to get the surgery.
Gibson, 23, was originally placed on the Minor League disabled list with soreness in the flexor muscle area near his elbow and underwent an MRI on Aug. 3. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is the 33rd-ranked prospect in baseball and No. 2 in the Twins’ system, according to MLB.com.
Gibson, the club’s first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, had been struggling recently, as he went 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA in eight starts over June and July. It came after he entered June with a 3.60 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 55 innings.