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04/06/08 3:30 PM ET
Span makes big league debut
Rookie starts in right against Royals in finale at Metrodome
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Denard Span woke up Sunday morning and said that he almost had to pinch himself.
"Two days ago I was at a Quality Inn in Richmond [Va.], and now I'm getting ready to play in my first big league game," said Span, the Twins 2002 first-round Draft pick. "It's pretty unreal."
It's a moment that Span couldn't have envisioned just two weeks ago when he was one of the final players cut from Spring Training. Having lost out to Carlos Gomez for the starting center field job, Span emerged from manager Ron Gardenhire's office in Fort Myers, Fla., with red eyes and tear-stained cheeks.
But despite having to wait a little longer for his first big league callup, Span didn't have to wait nearly as long to make his debut.
After arriving at the Metrodome around 8 a.m. CT on Sunday for an extra fielding session in right field, Span got another welcome surprise when he saw that he was listed as the starter in right field for the finale against the Royals.
"I'm trying to just take a deep breath," Span said. "Even as I was out there catching fly balls this morning, I told myself to slow down. I'm excited, but when you try to speed it up, that's when things start to look crazy and stuff happens."
On Saturday, Jason Kubel got the start in right field in the first game after Michael Cuddyer was put on the disabled list with a dislocated right index finger. But Gardenhire has stressed that along with Kubel and Craig Monroe mixing in at the spot, Span will see his share of time at the position, too.
One player who Gardenhire will not mix in at the spot is left fielder Delmon Young. Although Young played the majority of his games in right field for Tampa Bay last season, Gardenhire said he doesn't want to disrupt Young's development at his new position.
"There is no sense in moving him to right field for two weeks and then Cuddy comes back and move him back to left field," Gardenhire said. "If you start changing too many positions at one time, that's no good. We'll leave him out there and let him do his thing out in left. He's getting used to it, and he's actually getting pretty good at it."
For Span, a pure center fielder since the Twins drafted him, he is still adjusting to being back in right field. He said it's a position he hasn't played since high school.
To help with the position switch, Span spent about a half-hour on Sunday morning taking fly balls in right field and working on fielding balls off the baggie. That extra session came after Span had shagged balls in right after Saturday's day game.
It wasn't a lot of time to get adjusted to right field, a position Gardenhire admits can be difficult due to the baggie and the lights. But Span said he was starting to get a better feel for it.
"I think that the more I'm out there, the more comfortable I'll get," Span said. "I felt better this morning than I felt yesterday when I took fly balls."
Span's family will be on hand for his Major League debut. They caught an early-morning flight out of Tampa, Fla., on Saturday morning and actually beat Span to Minnesota. He said they will attend Sunday's game before flying back home.
Despite all the added excitement of the day, Span said he's trying not to make too much out of the moment.
"When I went to Minor League camp after being sent down, I really was feeling comfortable at the plate," Span said. "I'm going to try to keep the same mentality and don't go out there and try to do too much -- instead, just try to have some fun."