Justin Morneau

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Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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Justin Morneau out of retirement to play for Canada in Olympic baseball qualifying

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP first baseman for the Minnesota Twins who last played in 2016, is on the Canadian roster for Olympic qualifying as baseball returns to the Games next summer for the first time since 2008.

Morneau, 38, headlines the Canadian roster for next month’s Premier12, a global tournament where the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified.

Active MLB players are not expected to be released to participate in the Tokyo Games.

Canada will have its hands full at Premier12, as well as a potential last-chance North and South American qualifier in March, when the winner qualifies for the Games. The U.S., Cuba and Mexico are all ranked higher the Canada, which is 10th overall.

Canada played in two previous Olympic tournaments in 2004 and 2008 but did not earn a medal.

Morneau could become the second MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was 2000 AL MVP Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

Canada’s coaching staff at Premier12 includes another former MVP, Larry Walker.

The U.S. roster for Premier12 has not been announced, though Joe Girardi has already been named manager.

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