Span returns after concussion, rumors

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 2, 2011 - 2:17 PM

Uncertainty surrounded the Twins center fielder, who drew lots of interest at the trade deadline despite health concerns.

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Denard Span was one of the Twins’ few reliable players the first two months of the season, but he hasn’t played since June 6 after suffering a concussion on a feet-first slide into home.

Photo: Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press file

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ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Denard Span’s concussion symptoms were gone, his rehabilitation assignment was complete and the trade rumors had quieted.

Sunday night, after his last game for Class AAA Rochester, the Twins center fielder grabbed his smartphone and poured his heart again to his 30,000 Twitter followers.

“Couldn’t of got thru it w/o y’all,” Span wrote. “I’ll never forget this!!”

Upon seeing this, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia couldn’t resist.

“Uncle on all the tweets @thisisdspan,” Valencia wrote. “Although I must say I’m happy your still with us!!!!”

Span countered: “@dannyvalencia19 if u was on that trade block u wouldve been doin the same chump lol [laugh out loud].”

An hour later, Span did a phone interview, saying he had just been through the toughest two months of his career. He will be back atop the Twins lineup Tuesday night against the Angels, knowing a lot has changed since he suffered his concussion June 3 on a slide into Royals catcher Brayan Pena.

Back then, it all seemed so simple. Span was playing well for the team that signed him as a first-round draft pick out of Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School in 2002. In the second year of a five-year, $17 million contract, he was batting .300 with a .367 on-base percentage.

Span, 27, tried playing three days later in Cleveland and realized how woozy he felt. The Twins placed him on the disabled list, and like Justin Morneau last year, Span began to wonder if the concussion symptoms would ever pass.

“I thought I would be out only for a couple weeks, and then I entered a stage where it just wasn’t progressing,” Span said. “I don’t want to say I battled with depression, but I had some low points.”
Span finally made enough progress to begin his rehab stint with Rochester. Then the trade rumors started swirling. Ben Revere had done well enough in Span’s place that the Twins considered multiple offers for Span, including the well-publicized one from the Washington Nationals for young closer Drew Storen.

As Sunday’s nonwaiver trade deadline neared, some reports said it was almost a done deal. Even if Span wanted to ignore the rumors, his Twitter followers kept reminding him, with some suggesting they would stop supporting the Twins if he were traded.

“I couldn’t help but check my phone every hour to see what the heck was going on,” Span said. “Honestly, I thought I was going to be wearing a different jersey. I thought I’d have a 'W’ on my hat.”

Span said the combination of being on the DL and the trade rumors hit him like a double whammy. Twins General Manager Bill Smith wasn’t happy seeing the reports, either, implying they must have been leaked by the Nationals.

“I don’t think he ever heard anything from this ballclub,” Smith said. “And I cannot be held accountable for a lot of the irresponsible stuff that gets out there. We had a high percentage of our players that were asked about by other clubs, and it’s our responsibility to listen.”

Span knows the rumors are bound to return this offseason, since Revere gives the Twins another option in center field.

“Even if I’m traded next year, I’ll always remember all 30,000 of my followers saying, 'Don’t trade Denard Span,’ ” he said. “It’s made me realize how much I love Minnesota.”
 

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