Span feels good enough to return

A good batting practice session led to a mutual decision putting him back at the top of the Twins lineup.

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Denard Span

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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ARLINGTON, TEXAS - After early batting practice Thursday, Twins outfielder Denard Span went into Ron Gardenhire's office at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and said, "I want to play."

Gardenhire's response: "That's fine with me. I want you to play."

Span got two hits and a walk in six plate appearances during the Twins' 10-6 loss to Texas.

And that ended 10 days of wondering when Span, slowed by a sore clavicle and neck, would return to the lineup.

Span arrived at the park not planning to play. But he had a good batting practice session, then lifted weights. He spoke with trainers, saw that a righthanded pitcher, Roy Oswalt, was on the mound and decided to give it a shot -- despite not being 100 percent.

"I feel as close as I will get. [Thursday] was the first day during batting practice that I swung without thinking about pain for the most part," said Span, batting .287 with three homers and 34 RBI. "I realize there is going to be some pain and there is only one way to find out, to go out there and test it out and go from there."

Span thought he would miss just a few games and told the Twins he didn't think he needed to land on the disabled list. He ended up missing nine games. His absence became a bigger ordeal when he revealed earlier this week that claustrophobia makes it difficult for him to endure magnetic resonance imaging exams -- even ones done in open-air MRI machines.

The Twins' decision to not place Span on the DL started to look like a mistake, until Span returned to action Thursday.

The Twins went 2-7 after Span injured himself Aug. 12 while trying to make a tough catch against the Rays. So Gardenhire was relieved to hear that Span was ready to return to the top of the lineup with Ben Revere and help set things up for the heart of the batting order.

"That's what we have been waiting for," Gardenhire said.

Gibson to Rochester

Class AAA Rochester lefthander Pedro Hernandez, one of two players the Twins received for Francisco Liriano last month, has been placed on the disabled list because of a strained rotator cuff. The Red Wings are fighting for a playoff spot and needed a replacement, so the Twins sent righthander Kyle Gibson to the rescue.

Gibson is on the rehabilitation trail following Tommy John elbow surgery last year. In two outings at Class A Fort Myers, Gibson had given up two earned runs over seven innings. Before that, he gave up four earned runs over 142/3 innings for the Twins rookie team in the Gulf Coast League. He's now able to throw 60-65 pitches.

The Twins have been pleased with his progress. The plan for Gibson, the Twins' first-round pick in 2009, is for him to finish with Rochester and then head to Fall Instructional League in Fort Myers, Fla. He's also a candidate to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. He should get a chance with the Twins next season, but he has zero chance of being called up to the majors in September.

"This is not the right place to bring a guy up on a rehab," said Rob Antony, Twins assistant general manager.

Carson sent down

The Twins optioned outfielder Matt Carson to Class AAA Rochester after Thursday's game. To replace him, the Twins recalled righthander Kyle Waldrop, who has a 3.34 ERA in 24 games at Rochester.

Carson was 8-for-21 in five games with the Twins, but with Span able to play the club decided to go back to 13 pitchers.

Willingham scratched

Josh Willingham was scratched about 50 minutes before the first pitch because of a stiff neck after sleeping on it wrong Wednesday night.

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