Monday, March 5, 2012

Span continues to be tested this spring

The Twins are only three games into their Grapefruit League schedule but Denard Span is making sure to put all of his concussion worries behind him. Over the course of the last handful of days, Span has been forced to make numerous plays on the ball that could be troublesome for a player who suffered a concussion last year. Even with all of these rough plays, Span has not suffered any major setbacks and he has started this spring off on the right foot.

The first incident took place during a simulated game on Thursday, which was played on a side field next to Hammond Stadium. Trevor Plouffe was at the plate and he hit a ball that looked to be heading over the fence in center field. Span went back on the ball looking to make a play and he crashed into the fence at almost full-speed. Other than a busted lip from hitting the chain-linked fence, he seemed to be fine following the incident. He would continue to workout with the team for the rest of practice with no lingering effects.

More tests came for Span in the Twins' first action of the spring against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. In the third inning Span went back on a ball and made a falling catch on the warning track. This caused him to get up a little slow but he was able to shake it off and stay in the game. The very next inning he was forced to battle the sun and the wind to make a falling catch. He was very successful from the offensive side of the plate in the game as he went 2-3 with two singles. The more promising sign might have been that both of his hits came after he made the falling catch on the warning track.

The Twins had a split-squad schedule on Sunday with games against Boston and Tampa Bay but four plays from the team were staying back to work on some hitting at Hammond Stadium. Span was one of those players along with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Josh Willingham. The team has another game on Monday at home so all of these players should be back in the line-up in front of the home fans.

Span tried to make multiple comebacks after he suffered a concussion in the middle of last season. He missed most of the month of June and all of the month of July before making his first comeback at the beginning of August. During that month, he would play nine games before before some other complications forced him to sit out until the last week of the season. In September, he played three complete games and he also played in two partial games. He played a vital role in the Twins 1-0 win in the last game of the season by smacking a double to start the ninth inning and he would eventually score the winning run.

At the time of Span returning to the field with only a handful of games left, it seemed like a questionable move for the Twins because there was a chance he could get hurt again. But by returning to action, he was able to prove to himself that he could get on the field. In those five appearances, he batted .278/.278/.611 with two doubles, two triples, and four runs scored. He seemed to fit back into the top of the Twins line-up as he helped the team to finish out a miserable season. It would have been easy to skip out on those games but Span wanted to prove to the team and to himself that he was able to stay on the field.

The Twins will keep an eye on Span as the spring training schedule continues to play out in the coming weeks. Span has passed quite a few tests in the first handful of opportunities and the hope is that the team won't have to worry about him once the season begins. For the Twins to be successful in 2012, Span is one of the key pieces that needs to be in the line-up on a more regular basis. He is the table setter ahead of the bigger bats in the middle of the batting order and his success can go a long way to determining how the Twins will perform this year.

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