That doesn't mean he has given up all hope, though.
"My opinion is that we are running out of time -- he just hasn't done enough baseball activities to be ready for the playoffs," Gardenhire said after Friday night's 10-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers. "But that's my opinion -- not the opinion of a doctor or of anyone else. I'll be happy if I'm wrong."
Gardenhire said much the same thing on a radio show earlier Friday, setting off an Internet firestorm. Morneau has been sidelined since sustaining a concussion in a July 7 game against Toronto.
"I was just giving a simple answer to the question they asked me, but apparently it has been all over Twitter and blogs that I ended his season," he said. "That's not at all what I was saying. I just know he had a baby and he's been recovering, and there isn't a lot of time left."
With the minor league season done, Morneau would have to go to the Instructional League for rehab at-bats.
"Believe me, if they tell me he can play, I'll have him in the Instructional League in a heartbeat," Gardenhire said. "Honestly, though, our focus is making sure he's healthy for spring training. Anything we get beyond that is a triple bonus."
Morneau was hitting a career-best .345 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 81 games at the time of the injury, but the Twins have rallied to go 47-21 without him.
Minnesota has already clinched a second straight American League Central title and currently is tied with Tampa Bay for the best record in the AL.