Early in the season, Justin Morneau looked a lot like he did last year at the plate. That is to say: he was tentative, consistently fooled by good breaking balls, and generally ineffective.
At the end of April, he informed the team that his wrist had been ailing him for the better part of two weeks. He sat out a few days, then ended up on the disabled list, returning on May 16th.
It would seem that the rest did him some good. Since coming back from the DL, Morneau has looked very much like his old self, and not just because he's once again playing first base on a regular basis after serving mostly as DH in the first month. He's locked in at the plate and crushing the ball in a way we haven't seen for almost two years.
After going 3-for-5 with two homers and a double in Thursday night's loss to the White Sox, Morneau is hitting .290/.343/.742 with four homers, two doubles and 12 RBI in eight games. His eight total home runs put him on pace for 30 on the year despite the missed time. And while his plate approach was shaky earlier in the season, his recent at-bats have been marked by far more patience.
It may be too early to declare that the vintage Morneau is officially "back." After all, he's still hitting only .248 on the season and we're talking about a 10-day stretch of improvement.
But here's one thing I look at as a supremely positive sign: the first baseman's mammoth home run off of Will Ohman in the seventh inning on Wednesday.
Now, Ohman isn't one of the top relievers in the league by any stretch, but he's been awfully good at shutting down left-handed hitters over the course of his career. And Morneau, well, he ain't been so good against southpaws lately. Last year he posted a meager .159/.183/.217 line against lefties and this year he'd been even worse, with a .059 batting average and 11-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 plate appearances.
But Morneau absolutely obliterated an offering from Ohman, driving it an estimated 451 feet to straightaway center. According to ESPN's Stats and Info department
, it was the longest home run hit by a left-handed batter against a left-handed pitcher this year.
One at-bat can't prove anything. But it sure can make a statement.