The Twins' march to 100-loss oblivion continued Wednesday when they were turned back 5-4 by Seattle, but one player who could leave Target Field with a smile on his face was outfielder Denard Span.
Span returned to the lineup for the first time since Aug. 13, going 0-for-3. It's his chance to salvage a season that has been slowed by a concussion that forced him to miss 48 games in June and July, then migraine symptoms that forced him from the lineup from mid-August until Wednesday.
"I felt good,'' Span said. "Right before the game I was nervous and all of those crazy feelings. Now that it is over with, I feel a lot better.''
Span grounded out to short twice and grounded to first in his three plate appearances before being replaced by Rene Tosoni for the fifth inning. Span's last at-bat lasted eight pitches against Mariners fireballer Michael Pineda, and that encouraged him.
"That third at-bat, I felt comfortable,'' Span said, "and it showed.''
Span said part of him wanted to shut down for the season and the other part wanted to return to the field. He listened to the other part and elected to play. He's taking medication for his symptoms and underwent tests within the past week to make sure he could return to action without risk.
"I don't what this to come out the wrong way -- I'm not happy that we are in last place -- but this is a good opportunity for me to come back from this," Span said. "If we were in a pennant race right now, I wouldn't be ready to go out there.''
His season went downhill June 3 when he suffered a concussion when he crashed into Kansas City catcher Brayan Pena at home plate. He ended up missing most of June and all of July. When he returned on Aug. 2, he still wasn't right and stopped playing after an Aug. 13 game.
With minor league seasons having ended earlier in the month, there was no way for Span to go on a rehabilitation assignment to knock off the rust.
"I think he was excited,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had some at-bats and saw the ball good, and I think he felt good about being on the baseball field again."
With Span on the field, righthander Kevin Slowey had a no-hitter through five innings. Things unraveled in the sixth. Ichiro Suzuki broke up the no-no with a legitimate infield hit. Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley followed with doubles, tying the score 2-2. Seattle added three in the seventh to take a 5-2 lead.
Slowey entered the sixth with zeroes on his pitching line. He ended up giving up five earned runs on six hits over 62/3 innings. And the Twins lost for the 11th time in a row, a season high and their longest skid since 1982.
"At this point, in this clubhouse, it's like we're watching the fate of Sisyphus himself,'' Slowey said. "We just get to the top of that hill and can't seem to figure it out, so it's pretty tough."
Overcoming concussions and other symptoms can be an uphill climb, too. Span wanted to get back on the field before this season was over, his way of pushing Sisyphus' boulder back. Hopefully, not for eternity.
Span was eager to see how he felt Thursday morning. If he felt up to it, he would consider playing again.
"I don't want to get ahead of myself,'' he said. "I feel good right now, postgame. I'll be able to tell once I get up in the morning and get here for a 12 o'clock game.''
For the second game in a row, the Twins had the bases loaded with no outs and didn't score.
On Wednesday, it happened in the fifth inning when Trevor Plouffe hit into a 1-2-3 double play and Brian Dinkelman tapped out to end the inning.
Gardenhire focused on Plouffe's at-bat. Mariners reliever Jeff Gray had just walked Danny Valencia on four pitches and fell behind Plouffe 2-0. Plouffe then chased a couple of bad pitches before tapping back to the mound. "Those are the types of things you have to learn from,'' Gardenhire said. "Those cost you ballgames. That guy was in trouble and we took him out of trouble.''
Plouffe said his approach in that situation was poor.
"I just got too aggressive,'' Plouffe said. "I saw the pitch, it had some movement on it and it was in the zone. And it came out of the zone.''
Repko still struggling
Jason Repko, who was hit in the head with a pitch Sunday, continues to report concussion symptoms. He underwent a CT scan and MRI exam, both of which came back negative. His chances of playing before the season ends aren't looking good.