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News » Denard Span helps get Twins running, finally

Denard Span helps get Twins running, finally

Denard Span helps get Twins running, finally
Denard Span got a big jump in the third inning of Monday night's loss to Tampa Bay and easily stole second base. A couple of pitches later, convinced that rookie pitcher Jeff Niemann had forgotten him, Span motored into third without a throw.

And don't think the Twins center fielder didn't think about making it a complete lap around the bases. He saw Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury pull off a steal of home Sunday night, after all.

"I was impressed with that," Span said of Ellsbury's surprise play against New York left-hander Andy Pettitte. "After seeing him do that ... whatever he can do, I can do, too."

Too bad Niemann wasn't left-handed.

Still, Span said the Twins' running game against the Rays was a positive sign. Minnesota entered the game with only nine steals this season, ranking 11th in the American League. That's a pace of just 77 steals over a 162-game schedule, well off the 102 bases they stole last year. Part of the reason is that Carlos Gomez, who led the Twins with 33 steals a year ago, has only two in April, and has been caught twice.

Span's pair of steals, along with one by Alexi Casilla (who stole second on the same pitch in which Span went to third) and one by Michael Cuddyer, gave the Twins a season-high four steals. And it's just the start, Span believes.

"We've got to get it going," said Span, who has five this year. "We're at our best when we are running and putting the pressure on defense, making things happen. For whatever reason, we just haven't gone much yet."

Monday's outburst was the best opportunity the Twins have had in a while, manager Ron Gardenhire said, because Niemann lived up to scouting reports that said he is slow in delivering the ball to home plate. "We've got to take what they're giving us," Gardenhire said. "If (another) starter lifts his leg up, we're going to go."

Mauer coming home today: Joe Mauer wrapped up his rehab assignment with Class A Fort Myers on Tuesday by going 1 for 2 with a double, a run and a run batted in. He will travel to Minneapolis today, take Thursday off and be in the Twins' lineup Friday, Gardenhire said.

"We'll put him right back in the middle," Gardenhire said, "probably in the three hole."

Reports from Fort Myers say Mauer is healthy enough to get behind the plate again -- and his hitting stroke is ready, too.

"The manager (is) saying he's on every pitch -- it doesn't change from what we see up here," Gardenhire said. "He's swinging the bat very good."

Green-light greed: The Twins' ninth-inning rally Tuesday might not have been necessary if they had scored a run in the eighth inning. They didn't, though - and Gardenhire didn't want to talk about the play afterward.

With two outs and Jose Morales at the plate, Delmon Young (pinch-running for Jason Kubel) took off from second base and Michael Cuddyer took off from first, a steal attempt that surprised the manager. Morales fouled off the pitch, sending the runners back. But on a 2-2 pitch, they ran again. This time, Young was thrown out at third, ending the inning without a run.

Asked about the strategy after the game, Gardenhire at first pretended he didn't remember the play, then made it clear he didn't understand it.

"I think that was on another planet. We're not on that planet right now -- we won -- so we'll have to discuss that one and figure out what was going on ourselves."

He thinks he knows, though. Young was "trying to do too much and got a little excited out there," he said.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 29, 2009

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