Span makes return to lineup (Game 109 vs. Angels)
ANAHEIM — Nearly two months after suffering a concussion in a home-plate collision with Royals catcher Brayan Pena on June 3, Denard Span is scheduled to make his return to the lineup tonight against the Angels, leading off and playing center field.
Span, who was originally placed on the seven-day disabled list on June 9 after playing in one game on June 6 against the Tigers after suffering his concussion, said he is nervous about his first game back.
“I almost feel like it’s my debut again,” Span said. “I’ve been gone for a while, and I’m definitely looking forward to get Day 1 out of the way. It’s kind of similar to when I went to Rochester a couple weeks ago.”
Span played in 10 rehab games with Triple-A Rochester, hitting .205 with a double and three stolen bases before being officially activated from the disabled before tonight’s game. Infielder Luke Hughes was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Sunday to make room for him on the roster.
Span, who missed 48 games, said the concussion was especially tough because it was difficult to put a timetable on his return.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “You would think I would be mentally refreshed right now from not playing, not going 0-for-4, 0-for-5 for the past two months, but if anything I feel a little like I’ve been through a war these past two months. But I think it’s made me stronger.”
Span also talked about how he felt regarding the trade rumors that swirled last week, as he was linked to the Nationals in a trade that would’ve sent closer Drew Storen to Minnesota. He said he was “very surprised” to hear his name in trade rumors, but understands it was part of the business.
“When I signed that deal a year ago, I thought I would be here five years, at least four,” said Span, who signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract extension before last season that includes an option for 2015. “I thought at least close to free agency, if they had to do what they had to do. But I didn’t think by the second year I’d be talked about getting out of here. So that was definitely a surprise.”
Span also added he would be OK with playing a corner outfield spot, if necessary, as the Twins have a crowded outfield with Ben Revere, Delmon Young, Jason Repko, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel on the roster. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Span will be in center, as Span didn’t want to play in any games in left or right field during his rehab stint.
“We talked before, about doing that in the Minor Leagues, but we didn’t get that done,” Gardenhire said. “So he’s in the big leagues, in center field.”
Span, who was hitting .294 with a .361 on-base percentage in 56 games before hitting the disabled list, also said he expects to have similar production the rest of the season.
“I haven’t played in two months but I hold myself to high expectations,” Span said. “I’m going to get back to where I was. When, I don’t know? But I’m going to get back there. I’m going to work and do what I have to do, whether it’s in the cage, or on the field or whatever and do whatever it takes to get back to that feeling. I’d be lying to you right now, if I told you I felt like I felt right before I got hurt. But you know, it’s going to come.”