WASHINGTON – Denard Span sounds like a man still trying to get over a bad breakup.
Dealt from the Twins to the Nationals in November, the Washington center fielder said “it’s a strange feeling” seeing his ex-team again this weekend.
“When I woke up in the morning [Friday], I had butterflies. Just to see familiar faces, play against my old team, it’s just weird,” said Span, who batted .284 with 90 steals in five seasons with the Twins. “Watching them play, I still catch myself saying ‘us’ and ‘we.’ It’s still an adjustment. I had started to move on, you know, I’m a National. But now, with them coming to town, it feels like it just happened.”
“It” was the straight-up swap for Alex Meyer, a pitching prospect now in Class AA. Span said he wasn’t surprised by the trade — “You guys in the media in Minnesota had put a lot of pressure on them to trade me,” he joked — but never really expected to leave, either.
“It was a bittersweet thing. I thought I was one of the cornerstones of the team. When I signed my contract [in 2010], I thought I’d be there for five years. I didn’t sign a three-year deal,” Span said. “It was a team-friendly deal [for $16.5 million], so I thought I’d be there the entire time. But I learned a lot in Minnesota over the years, not just baseball but how to deal with things in life. It’s just another life lesson.”
Span said he has enjoyed watching his successor, Aaron Hicks, adjust to the major leagues. He calls or texts Hicks every couple of weeks, he said, and tries to encourage him — the way Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer did for him, he said. “I’d tell the fans, just relax, give him a chance, let him get settled in. Realize that he’s going to be around for a while,” Span said.
Span has made a good impression in Washington, manager Davey Johnson said, though he entered the weekend batting .267 as he learns a new league with new pitchers and new ballparks. “He’s been great — covering ground out there like the morning dew, and he’s been getting on base,” Johnson said. “We like him.”
And he likes Washington, too. He just has to put his old situation out of his mind.
“I’m fine. I miss Minnesota, but I’m having a ball here,” Span said. “I was feeling like Minnesota is in my past, I was feeling I’m settled in here, until they came to town this weekend.”
• Johnson suspected Ron Gardenhire might be a manager someday, partly because he was a shortstop. “Middle infielders think we’re the smartest ones on the field” because they interact with both the pitchers and hitters, said Johnson, himself an All-Star second baseman for Baltimore. “It’s only natural we go into managing.” Johnson managed Gardenhire at Class AAA Tidewater in 1983, and with the New York Mets in 1984-85, and “he meant a lot to me,” the Twins manager said. “He gave me a chance. He believed in me.”
• When the Twins arrived in Washington around 3:30 a.m. Friday morning, their hotel had no power. Players had to take the stairs to their rooms, some as high as the 15th floor, and each was issued a flashlight to navigate the stairs, hallways and rooms in the dark. Joe Mauer said he unplugged all the lamps and TV in his room, so he wouldn’t be awakened when the power returned.
• Chris Colabello will be activated Sunday as the Twins’ 26th player, under the major league rule that allows teams to add an extra player for a doubleheader. The rule’s intent is to allow teams to add pitching, but the Twins are already carrying 13 pitchers and have an off day on Monday, so Gardenhire chose to add an extra pinch hitter.