No timetable, but Morneau thinking positively

Rockies first baseman strengthening key muscles in hopes to return this year

No timetable, but Morneau thinking positively

DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau -- whose presence around the club has been scarce since he sustained concussion symptoms and a cervical spine injury -- said on Thursday he has been riding an exercise bike and strengthening his neck for the last "week and a half, maybe two weeks." Morneau intends to return by season's end.

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"That's what we're moving toward," Morneau said before heading for treatment and a workout. "I don't think we'd be bothering going through all the things we're going through to try to figure this out and get it better if that wasn't the plan.

"When that is, I can't tell you. Hopefully sooner than later. But you never know. I hate to be vague, but that's sort of where we're at."

Morneau, last year's National League batting champion with a .319 average, left a May 13 game against the Angels one at-bat after being injured in a whiplash incident while diving for a ground ball. The team announced that Morneau had suffered "dizziness."

Days later, Morneau attempted to take batting practice, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list shortly thereafter. Morneau, who has a severe concussion history, had to wait until the symptoms subsided before working to strengthen the neck.

Weeks went by with little information from the Rockies and no sight of Morneau, who was hitting .290 with three home runs and nine RBIs when the injury occurred. But on Thursday, he offered a positive outlook.

"Everything is progressing, moving forward," Morneau said. "It's frustrating, but we have a pretty decent plan in place and we're starting to make progress."

In addition to various rehab treatments, Morneau is working his neck against resistance provided by an athletic trainer. He calls it "a work in progress -- we try not to go too far with it."

Morneau was with the Twins when he sustained a severe concussion while breaking up a double play in 2010. It wasn't until the winter before the 2014 season -- the first year of his two-year, $12.5 million contract with the Rockies -- that he could work out and practice hitting without fear of concussion symptoms returning.

Morneau is setting aside that fear and concentrating on the process.

"Any time you have any kind of injury, you're concerned about it," Morneau said. "But as you move along and things continue to get better, you try to avoid all those thoughts -- the negative part of it -- and keep moving forward."

Morneau said there is no timetable for him to resume baseball activities.

"If I get frustrated going day by day or if I look too far ahead, that's when I lose focus," Morneau said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.