Span eager to spring back into action
Center fielder managing concussion-related symptoms
MINNEAPOLIS -- Denard Span said he's feeling the best he's felt physically in two years, and that he's willing to play wherever the Twins ask him to this upcoming season.
But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Span is expected to be the club's center fielder and leadoff hitter with Ben Revere in left field and Josh Willingham in right field.
"He's going to lead off and be my center fielder," Gardenhire said during the club's media luncheon at Target Field on Friday. "That's my expectation. If someone were to tell me he's not able to do that, then we'd have to ad lib. But if Denard comes in healthy, he's my center fielder."
Span, 27, played in just 70 games last year, limited by a concussion suffered in a home-plate collision against the Royals on June 3.
Span was playing at a high level before the concussion -- he was hitting .300 with a .367 on-base percentage before the injury -- but played in just 15 games the rest of the way, and hit just .123 in those games.
|"I can't sit up here and say every day has been a 100 percent awesome day. I have days, just like even if I didn't have a concussion history, when I just don't feel that great. I'm trying to learn how to deal."|
|-- Denard Span|
"I can't sit up here and say every day has been a 100 percent awesome day," Span said. "I have days, just like even if I didn't have a concussion history, when I just don't feel that great. I'm trying to learn how to deal."
Span has primarily been a center fielder with the Twins since coming up in 2008, playing 323 games in center and 124 in right, but said he's willing to play right if it helps the team. Gardenhire said he prefers to have Revere in left and Willingham in right but both players don't have much experience at those positions.
Revere was primarily a center fielder throughout his time the Minors and with the Twins last year in Span's absence, but with his range, he shouldn't have any trouble playing left. It's right field that could be a problem for him considering his below average arm.
Willingham, meanwhile, has played in just 33 games in right field compared to 662 games in left, but is currently slated to start the season in right. And Trevor Plouffe is expected to be the club's fourth outfielder after being moved off shortstop because of his troubles there defensively.
That's why Span said he's open to moving off center field if it helps the team, even though he prefers to play center.
"I've thought about it," Span said. "Everybody knows I waited a long time to play center field, and I'm very passionate about it. There's a piece of me out in that area. But at the same time, I just want to help us win ballgames. I'm willing to do that. I'm willing to pull myself and my pride aside and help us win."
Span added that he's simply looking forward to getting back on the field during Spring Training -- he plans on arriving in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 23 -- and is confident that he'll be ready to go right from the start.
"I'm just ready to get out on the field and test it out," Span said. "Last year was definitely a tough year for me -- a tough year for the team in general, but one of the most depressing and tough seasons for me personally. I'm just ready to get out there and put it behind me and look to 2012."