MLB Insider: Span among former Twins thriving

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 21, 2013 - 11:40 PM
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Washington Nationals' Denard Span (2) is congratulated by teammate Chad Tracy (18) after scoring on a single by Wilson Ramos during the 10th inning of a baseball game on Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Miami. The Nationals defeated the Marlins 5-2 in 10 innings.

Photo: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press - Ap

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Denard Span was disappointed when his hitting streak came to an end Thursday with an 0-for-4 game but not for long. When he finished a postgame TV interview, he walked to the clubhouse, opened the door, and found his teammates gathered there to give him a standing ovation.

“That made me feel good because all year I’ve been struggling, I’ve been battling,” Span, who collected a hit in 29 consecutive games, most in the majors this season, told reporters. “I’ve been trying to earn their respect.”

And not just theirs. His words gave away how much pressure Span felt in his first season in Washington, when he batted just .260 for four months and lost his leadoff spot. “I’ve gotten a lot of scrutiny this year with how I started,” said Span, the Twins’ first-round pick in 2002. “It’s just been good for [Nationals fans] to see that I am a good player.”

Span’s not the only former Twin who proved he’s a good player this year. Far from it. Around the majors, 46 ex-Minnesotans were on major league rosters at some point this year, all but Johan Santana got into a game, and many of them had career years.

Francisco Liriano, in fact, will surely receive some lower-ballot consideration in Cy Young voting for his turnaround season, and he’s one of the favorites for comeback player of the year after winning 15 games for the Pirates. Likewise, Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gomez could collect a few votes at the bottom of an MVP ballot after delivering sensational performances, albeit on poor teams.

Depending upon the final-week races, as many as 16 ex-Twins could appear in the postseason, led by David Ortiz, who has already appeared in 66 playoff games. After eclipsing 20 home runs for the 12th consecutive season (a streak he began in Minnesota), Big Papi will try to win his third World Series championship, A.J. Pierzynski his second, and Nick Punto has a decent shot at his first. Who else owns a ring? Yep, Jose Mijares, won last year.

If the Pirates reach the Series for the first time since 1979, they’ll take Liriano, Garrett Jones and Justin Morneau with them.

Joe Nathan is close to reaching 40 saves for the fourth time in his career, Grant Balfour for his first time. Craig Breslow and Luis Ayala don’t get as much acclaim in their teams’ bullpens, but each proved his value. So did Jesse Crain, baseball’s most effective setup man until his shoulder began aching.

Gomez needs one stolen base to reach 37, matching his career high; he already set a new personal mark in home runs, with 21. Torii Hunter proved his career isn’t over, batting .295 for the Tigers. Ben Revere batted over .300 until he hurt his ankle.

And Span’s streak? Only one other major leaguer had one longer than 20 games this year: Cuddyer with 27.

It’s been quite a year for many Twins — just not the ones in Minnesota.

Central Intelligence

Impressed that Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez has gone 31 starts without giving up more than one home run?

He’s not. From 2009 to ’11, he had 52 consecutive starts with one or zero homers for the Marlins.

•••

The White Sox’s 60th win on Tuesday included Addison Reed’s 38th save, meaning he had a role in 63.3 percent of their successes.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the highest save-to-win percentage over a full season since Bryan Harvey saved 70.3 percent of the Marlins’ wins in 1993.

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