Justin Morneau to have neck surgery

MILWAUKEE -- Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau thought his sore left wrist would be taken care of with a short trip to the disabled list. His worrisome neck pain needed more immediate attention.

The Twins announced before Friday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers that Morneau will have neck surgery Wednesday to remove a herniated disk fragment, keeping him out another six weeks.

Morneau was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month with a strained left wrist that was put in a cast to try to stabilize it. That also gave him time to rest his neck, but Morneau still has dealt with weakness in the arm and numbness in his left hand.

"Last week of spring training is last time I could feel the pointer finger next to my thumb," Morneau said during a conference call Friday night. "I'd like that to go away. That's the plan for the surgery, hopefully that'll be the result, and I'll come out good and be ready for August and September."

After seeing a second neck specialist, the organization made the decision that surgery was the best option to help Morneau regain the form that led him to the 2006 AL MVP and two Silver Slugger awards.

"I was honestly kind of looking forward to him getting out of this cast and seeing where he was at, kind of hoping we'd have him back here in four or five days or whatever," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I know Morny didn't want any part of this, really, he's been fighting this stuff with the surgery and trying to stay away from anything like that so he can finish out the season. I know it's frustrating for him, so I feel bad for him more than anything else."

Twins trainer Rick McWane said the procedure is non-invasive to remove the fragment but will keep Morneau out until August.

"He should be back playing full in six weeks," McWane said. "Even though the risk is small, there still is a risk that if he continued to play through this and not get it fixed that his full strength would not come back, so we made the decision."

Morneau said surgery on any part of his spine is serious, but it was the best option.

"I think the thing that kind of made the decision was hearing that it could be permanent, the weakness in the arm and numbness in the fingers," Morneau said.

Morneau is hitting .225 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 55 games, a year after missing the final 78 games of the season with a concussion.

"As frustrating as it is for fans to sit there and go, 'You know, I'd like to see this guy play,' it's a million times more frustrating for me," he said.

McWane said the concussion and neck problems were not related.

"He's had a history of neck injuries. It's hard to tell when it happened," McWane said. "He had a documented and measurable concussion in addition to what we saw on an MRI. They both have physical signs. I don't believe they're associated."

The Twins have had daily injury updates that have at times lasted longer than Gardenhire's talks with reporters.

Minnesota activated reliever Joe Nathan (right forearm) before the game after he missed 28 games. Jim Thome (left quadriceps) also rejoined the team, though he will not be activated until Saturday at the earliest after he was slated to take batting practice on Friday.

Right-hander Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) will throw two or three innings for Class A Fort Myers on Saturday. Right fielder Jason Kubel (left foot) is close to returning sometime during Minnesota's upcoming nine-game homestand beginning Monday. Center fielder Denard Span (concussion) played catch and hit off a tee for the first time without trouble.

All the injuries have contributed to Minnesota's uncharacteristic 32-41 record, which was fourth place in the AL Central entering Friday. Now the Twins will have to overcome Morneau's missing contributions for longer than expected.

"We'll do the best we can like we always do, but I feel bad for Morny because he really wanted to get back from this wrist thing, get back out on the baseball field and help us," Gardenhire said. "This neck thing is going to knock him out for a little bit longer, but we'll get him back. We'll get him back probably August, I'm guessing, and he'll help us down the stretch."