Twins’ Justin Morneau Out for Season With Back Injury

MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Morneau's season is over because of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Minnesota's slim chance of catching
Detroit in the AL Central race has been made more challenging by a
recent rash of injuries. The Twins are 5 1/2 games behind the Tigers,
with seven head-to-head meetings left, but they haven't been hitting
well lately and now they're missing more offense.

Morneau's injury was diagnosed Monday. Despite a severe second-half slump, the 2006 AL MVP still has 30 homers and 100 RBIs.

"If you go out there and you don't
feel like you're helping anyone, that's when you kind of take a step
back and say, 'All right. Maybe I'm doing more harm than good,'"
Morneau said.

Morneau hurt himself on a headfirst
slide into first base on Friday, but he's been playing with pain much
longer than that. He said he often felt a sharp discomfort during the
follow-through on his swing. After a recent MRI revealed inflammation
in his back, Morneau had a CT scan on Monday and got the doctor's bad
news.

Morneau is not supposed to do
anything but rest for the next three months, but the injury doesn't
require surgery. He said he's "99 percent" sure he'll be at full
strength for spring training.

"It's definitely going to make it a
lot tougher for us, but hopefully it's one of those things that brings
us closer together as a team," said Jason Kubel, who was on the bench
Monday for the second straight game because of a sore neck but hit a
two-run homer in the eighth as a pinch hitter.

The Twins also believe third baseman Joe Crede is through for the year.

Crede came off the disabled list last
week, but he only felt well enough to start one game: He went 0-for-4
with four strikeouts on Sunday. Manager Ron Gardenhire hadn't received
official word from the team's medical staff, but the manager said Crede
probably wouldn't be able to play anymore this season because of a back
problem that flared up this summer.

"He tried. It's just not going to work for him," Gardenhire said.

After a second major surgery on his
back, Crede recovered in time to sign a one-year, incentive-laden
contract with the Twins shortly after spring training began. He gave
them the good glove and power they expected — 15 home runs in 333
at-bats — but he has been bothered by a bunch of injuries.

The back strain, though, was the most devastating given how many problems he's had throughout his career.

"He was pretty much bummed out," Gardenhire said.

With 367 plate appearances, Crede
will make $4 million this season — including an extra $1.5 million in
plate-appearance bonuses.

Even rookie Justin Huber couldn't
escape the injury bug. He hurt an oblique muscle swinging during
batting practice and was scratched from his designated hitter spot.
Matt Tolbert was inserted at third base, with Brendan Harris moving
over to DH. Michael Cuddyer was at first in place of Morneau and will
likely play there the remainder of the year.