Span's absence raises eyebrows

  • Updated: March 11, 2012 - 9:31 PM

Span's absence raises eyebrows

The Twins had their projected Opening Day lineup ready for the Yankees on Sunday.

Then, Denard Span was scratched because of a stiff neck.

Span missed more than half of last season because of concussion and migraine symptoms, but General Manager Terry Ryan said this injury was not concussion-related.

Surrounded by reporters, Ryan quickly sensed the skepticism. Even though this sounded like a minor injury, the Twins were able to use their Opening Day lineup exactly once last season -- on Opening Day.

"If this is the biggest injury we have to worry about this spring, we'll be in good shape," Ryan said.

By day's end, there was one more injury to report: Tsuyoshi Nishioka has a strained left pinkie and is day-to-day, Ryan said.

Valencia homers

The pitcher was No. 95, Graham Stoneburner -- not to be confused with late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner -- but nonetheless, the score was tied 1-1 in the seventh inning when Danny Valencia connected for his second homer in as many days.

Valencia, who looks much more muscular this spring, has been spending lots of extra time on his swing. He hit 15 home runs last year and wants to bounce back after seeing his on-base percentage fall from .351 to .294 the past two seasons.

"To work in a few pretty good swings is nice, but I want to get a little more consistent in the box in general," Valencia said.

Who is this guy?

Michael Hollimon, who hit a three-run, eighth-inning homer in the 5-1 victory over the Yankees, is batting .667 with four hits in six at-bats.

In 2007, Baseball America ranked Hollimon as the Tigers' fourth-best prospect. He got an 11-game taste of the big leagues one year later but had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in 2009 and spent the next year playing independent ball.

After signing with the Twins last year, Hollimon posted a .741 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) in 126 games combined at Class AA and Class AAA. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Hollimon's best position is second base, but they're seeing what he can do at third this spring.

"His arm strength's getting a lot better," Gardenhire said. "He's a good athlete."

Etc.

• After nine Grapefruit League games, the Twins had three home runs, but they doubled that total Sunday.

• Starting pitcher Nick Blackburn allowed three hits in three scoreless innings.

• Scouts clocked Carlos Gutierrez's fastball at 96-97 miles per hour in the eighth inning. It was his third consecutive scoreless outing.

On deck

Carl Pavano pitches opposite Rays righthander James Shields on Monday in Port Charlotte, Fla., in the fifth of nine games between the teams this spring.

JOE CHRISTENSEN

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