Updated: September 8th, 2010 6:26pm
Morneau 'really encouraged' and 'optimistic' about a September return

Morneau 'really encouraged' and 'optimistic' about a September return

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, sidelined with concussion symptoms since July 7, hadn't spoken publicly since August 13, when he said he had yet to get through a day symptom-free.

On Wednesday, speaking to reporters about his nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award, Morneau expressed optimism about returning to action before the end of the season.

"It's been a pretty good week I think," Morneau said. "I've been running and doing that stuff, and it's coming along slowly. That's why I'm still optimistic that I'll be back before the year's over."

Last week, manager Ron Gardenhire said Morneau -- who had been taking batting practice and working out at Target Field -- was sent home for a few days, but the team refused to classify it as a setback.

Since then, Morneau has returned to the ballpark, and the first baseman says the doctors and trainers have come up with "a plan that we're kind of going to stick to."

"There's steps that you go through -- being able to jog for a certain amount of time, being able to sprint, cut the recovery time between the sets, and swinging and doing all that stuff. We're not going to do it all at once. It's kind of a gradual process, and we're moving along in that process."

Part of that plan, Morneau said, involves scaling back on batting practice and throwing.

"We're not going to be hitting until we go through being able to do the cardio, get the heart rate up and all that kind of stuff," Morneau said. "We decided that hitting might be slowing it down a little bit. It's one of those things, you just kind of eliminate it and hopefully we'll be able to get all the symptoms out of the way. That's sort of what we've done. I've added in more running, and kind of backed off on the swinging and throwing."

Just from a timetable perspective, the Twins have 23 games remaining in the regular season, and Morneau will need to string together several symptom-free days in a row before presumably playing in a simulated game or two, or more.

The clock is ticking. But Morneau has begun to put some of those "good days" under his belt as well.

"I've had a couple good days, then it kind of comes back," Morneau said. "It comes and goes. The last couple days I've felt really good. I've been really encouraged the last couple days... It's going to take a few days like that. It's not just going to be one or two, where I can all of the sudden go out there and play. I've got to feel like myself.

"The whole way along we've had good days. Now it seems to be there's more good days than bad days, which is a good thing."

Regarding his nomination for the Clemente Award -- which honors players who give back to their respective communities -- Morneau said, "It's a real special honor. What he did as a player and off the field, helping so many people, was something special. It's very humbling to be nominated and to be recognized."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Ron Gardenhire, Justin Morneau
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