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Updated: July 30, 2010, 1:52 PM ET

Morneau out is a big headache for Twins

Kurkjian By Tim Kurkjian
ESPN
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The Twins are always good for a variety of reasons, but none bigger than having a middle of the order with two great left-handed hitters -- Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau -- who make contact and can hit right-handers and left-handers. However, the Twins are in some trouble now because Morneau suffered a concussion July 7 and is likely at least a week from playing.

[+] EnlargeJoe Mauer
AP Photo/Jim MoneJoe Mauer remains in the middle of the Twins' order. When he will have Justin Morneau back next to him is unclear.

Morneau suffered the concussion when he was hit in the head by a knee as he was sliding into a base. After Minnesota lost that day, the Twins went 4-7 before rattling off a 6-0 win Wednesday against the Indians. Before Morneau went down, the Twins were tied for first place in the American League Central; now they trail the White Sox by 2½.

Morneau was building another MVP season, hitting .345 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs. The Twins haven't been the same without him, especially offensively. On Tuesday morning, Morneau saw a concussion specialist in Minneapolis. Twins general manager Bill Smith said that Morneau "continues to make progress, but he is not ready to resume baseball activities.''

Morneau did not accompany the team on the trip to Baltimore on Wednesday night. "Our first concern is his future and his health," Smith said. "We want him to make a full recovery from this. His career comes second."

Morneau is a really tough guy who has been very durable in his career. He grew up in Canada and was good enough that he had to decide whether to make a career out of baseball or hockey. But a concussion is a different story, especially in baseball. It is the hardest game in the world to play even when everything is working properly, but when your head isn't clear, if anything is fuzzy, if there's any dizziness, you simply can't play.

Maybe Morneau's head will clear in a week, and he will return to the lineup, start hitting immediately and help lead the Twins back to the playoffs. But you can't predict anything with a concussion. In the meantime, the Twins will hope their deep bench can fill in as capably as possible for Morneau, or maybe they'll make a deal for a front-line pitcher before the July 31 trade deadline. They might need to do that, but even if they acquire help for their rotation, they're not going to catch the White Sox without Morneau in the lineup.

Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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