ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Denard Span is 34 years old, and his beard is speckled with gray hair.
And he admits he is getting close to ending his playing days.
“But not quite yet,” he said. “I have a number in my head, how much longer I want to play. But it’s not at the end of this year for sure.”
It shouldn’t be, considering how he has played so far vs. his old team. He went 2-for-5 with three RBI in Tampa Bay’s 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Twins on Friday, showing his hands are still quick as he hit a two-run double to right in the fifth inning.
“I’ve seen enough highlights of Span hooking balls into that corner this year,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He’s kind of been in pull mode.”
But Span went up the middle Saturday for a two-run single. He followed that with an RBI single to right in the Rays’ 10-1 victory.
The Tampa native was traded from San Francisco over the offseason as part of a package for star third baseman Evan Longoria. Span has gotten married — to former Gophers and United States Olympic hockey player Anne Schleper of St. Cloud — and they had a son in October. Being back home in Florida allows his mother to see him and her grandson.
“It’s perfect timing for me in my life right now, being here,” he said.
Span, drafted 20th overall in 2002 by the Twins, is expected to be one of the veteran influences on the Rays, but he leads the club with 17 RBI from the leadoff spot.
Span is sharing the outfield with Carlos Gomez. It was Gomez who beat Span out for the starting center field job with the Twins in 2008, and Span became emotional in the clubhouse in Fort Myers after learning of the decision.
Now Span is the calm veteran, trying to help out young players such as Mallex Smith. “I’ve turned into — literally — the grizzly old vet,” he said while laughing. “Playing the Torii Hunter role.”
Friday was only the sixth time Span has faced the Twins since being traded by them following the 2012 season to Washington for Alex Meyer. And he has not played at Target Field since then.
Consequently, he has July 12-15 circled on his calendar — when the Rays come to town.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces,” he said. “I have friends who still live in the Twin Cities. It’s going to be a good time going back there and going back down memory lane.”
Buxton takes BP
Twins center fielder Byron Buxton has not fully recovered from his migraine yet, but he has made enough progress that he took batting practice Saturday.
“Some things you just have to go through,” Buxton said. “It’s at the point now where I can go out and take batting practice.”
He said the blurred vision and dizziness he was dealing with has subsided, but the pounding of stadium music bothered him Friday. He received a new prescription and feels better, so he believes it’s time to start working his way back.
• Back in familiar surroundings, Logan Morrison hit his first home run with the Twins on Friday, also his first in 59 plate appearances going back to Sept. 29. The Rays have seen Morrison get off to a slow start before; in 2016, his first year with Tampa Bay, he hit .129 over his first 29 games with no RBI. “He handled himself about as good as any player I’ve ever been around,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s a professional hitter. He’s going to get it going.”
• Twins righthander Michael Pineda, on the rehabilitation trail after Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, will visit the Twin Cities this week for a checkup.
• Outfielder Zack Granite is on the disabled list at Class AAA Rochester because of a right shoulder contusion, the same problem he had late in spring training.