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6/8/2013 4:17 P.M. ET

Facing Twins for first time, Span looks back fondly

November 2012 trade to Nationals took center fielder by surprise

WASHINGTON -- Denard Span admitted it was odd to see his former teammates come to town for the first time since he was traded by the Twins to the Nationals in November.

Span, who has taken over as Washington's center fielder and leadoff hitter, played against his former team for the first time on Saturday since being traded for Double-A right-hander Alex Meyer.

"It's a strange feeling," said Span, who played with the Twins from 2008-12. "Even though we didn't play [Friday because of a rainout], I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. Just to see familiar faces and be playing against my old team is weird."

Span, who signed a five-year deal worth $16.5 million with the Twins before the '10 season, said he enjoyed his time in Minnesota and was ultimately a little surprised when the Twins decided to trade him even though there had been trade rumors surrounding him for two years.

"I was surprised that I got traded, but at the same time, I was and I wasn't, because there had been trade rumors flying for some time," Span said. "So it was a bittersweet thing. I thought I was one of the cornerstones of the time. When I signed my contract, I thought I'd be there for five years. I didn't sign a three-year deal and it was a team-friendly deal, so I thought I'd be there for the entire time. But I learned a lot in Minnesota not just about baseball but about life, so it's just a life lesson."

Span said he's continued to follow the Twins from afar and has been impressed by Aaron Hicks --- his replacement in center field -- despite his slow start early in the season.

"He'll be fine," Span said. "This is the big leagues. This isn't Double-A. It'll take a little bit of time. But when I look at him, I see a Torii Hunter type. Torii took a little time before his bat came around and then now you see he's 38 and still doing it. So with the ability Aaron has, I think he's going to be around for a long time."

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire also had nothing but positive things to say about Span, who hit .284/.357/.389 with 23 homers and 90 stolen bases in 589 games with the Twins.

"He's a pretty good player, as a matter of fact, a really good player," Gardenhire said. "We miss him a lot. He's a leadoff guy, the whole package, with the way he played the game. So we miss him an awful lot."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.