Denard Span signed autographs at TwinsFest.

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune


Today: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

twinsfest 2012 at metrodome Today: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Denard Span healthy, wealthy and wise

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN
  • Star Tribune
  • January 28, 2012 - 8:19 AM

Denard Span's TV was tuned to MLB Network the other night, and the topic was the American League Central.

"All they were talking about was Detroit and every other team in the division; they didn't even mention the Minnesota Twins," Span said Friday. "I thought we changed divisions."

Coming off a 99-loss season, the Twins have been easy to forget nationally, but Span said he believes improved health could go a long way toward restoring the team's identity.

When listing the team's biggest question marks, Span ranks somewhere in the top three, along with Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. None played more than 82 games last year. But just like the M&M Boys, Span arrived at TwinsFest with positive news about his health.

"It's probably the best I've felt in two years," Span said. "I don't want to jinx myself because I won't know until I get down there in spring training and get on the field for five or six hours. But I can honestly say it's been a long but good offseason."

Definitely long. Span spent so much time sitting out because of a concussion and migraine issues last year, it's almost like his offseason began last June.

He was batting .300 on June 3, when he tried legging out an inside-the-park home run in Kansas City and suffered a concussion after sliding into burly catcher Brayan Pena. After that, Span played in just 15 of the team's final 106 games, and his batting average plunged to .264 and his on-base percentage fell to .328.

"I spent most of the year last year asking God, 'Why now?' " Span said. "I felt like I was playing at a great level last year, even though we were struggling. I feel like the answer I got from him was, 'Everything happens for a reason.' Whatever the plan he has, it was not meant for me to play [a whole season] last year."

Span took solace in the fact he returned for five of the team's final eight games. He finished the year with a good note, delivering a pinch-hit double and scoring on Trevor Plouffe's walk-off single in a 1-0 victory over the Royals in the season finale.

Once he returned home to Tampa, Fla., Span didn't need rest like most ballplayers do in October. He needed a jump-start. He began by making weekly visits to a chiropractor.

"One of the first things he put me through was a diet to kind of clean up my system, put me through a detox, to get my brain and my body functioning naturally," Span said. "So I haven't had a sip of caffeine in three or four months."

Span also has a computer program on his laptop that helps train his eyes to focus better. He does these eye exercises for about 30 minutes three or four times per week. For the most part, his concussion symptoms have passed.

"Just like anybody who has a concussion history, I have days when I just don't feel that great, and I'm trying to learn how to deal with it," Span said. "I think a lot of it's mental, too, at times. Is it the concussion, or did I not get enough sleep or am I just not having a good day? I've had some days where I don't feel the best, but I get through it."

So even with his body feeling strong, Span still faces uncertainty, much like Morneau. Maybe that's why manager Ron Gardenhire seems determined not to confuse things by creating a center field controversy this spring.

When the team begins full-squad workouts on Feb. 24 in Fort Myers, Fla., Span will be in center, with Ben Revere in left field and Josh Willingham in right.

"There's not even a question in my mind about that," Gardenhire said, adding, "We've got enough question marks. Center field shouldn't [be a question]. If [Span's] healthy he's it."

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