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Anyone who watched the Twins over the last month or so could easily tell that Justin Morneau(notes) wasn't himself.

And on Monday, we found out the reason why he was hitting only .100 with two homers and six RBIs since Aug. 16.

Morneau has been playing with a stress fracture in one of his vertebra and will miss the season's final 18 games as part of an expected three-month recovery. 

From the Star Tribune:

"It's been bugging me for a while,'' Morneau said. "It's one of those things where you can play through the pain if you feel like you're doing something to help your teammates win ballgames, but when you go out there and you don't feel like you're helping anyone, that's when you take a step back and go, 'All right, maybe I'm doing more harm than good.'''

Michael Cuddyer(notes) will assume Morneau's position at first base as the Twins try to pull off a long shot and make up 5.5 games to catch Detroit. Minnesota still has seven games against the Tigers left — starting with three at home this weekend — and Morneau said he'll be sticking around the clubhouse to serve as an unofficial cheerleader.  

Though Morneau may do a fine job as a pompon holder, we should all take a minute to applaud the effort he put forth on the field this season. His final line will read .274/.363/.516 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs and that's with being either largely ineffective or on the disabled list the last two months of the season. When you consider he could have packed it in early for a middling Minnesota team, it's pretty impressive that we'll one day be able to look at his '09 numbers and be completely unable to tell he was playing with a busted back. 

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