La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

The Fort is Calling: Leftovers from TwinsFest

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: February 2, 2011 - 12:56 PM

Pitchers and catchers report in 14 days...Pitchers and catchers report in 14  days.....

GARDY WANTS TO GIVE SPAN A BREAK

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has had to keep Denard Span, his best leadoff hitting option, in the lineup while making sure other players get occasional breaks.

``At the beginning of the season, everyone else was getting breathers. (Joe) Mauer, (Justin) Morneau,’’ Span said. ``(Gardy) just couldn’t. I was fine with that. I had to play through couple nicks but that is part of the game.''

Looking back at last season, Gardenhire wonders if he made a mistake. Span batted .264 with a .331 on base percentage, his lowest in two-plus seasons in both categories. With Jason Repko slated to open the season as the reserve outfielder, Gardenhire is going to give Span more time off.

``Obviously his batting average dipped a little last year, but you know what, I can do a better job as a manager giving him breaks,’’ Gardenhire said. ``We didn’t have Repko for half a season last year, that’s huge for me. (Span) does a lot of things for his teammates. Sees a lot of pitches. I think he wore down by the end of the season. ``I think I’m going to do a better job.

Span has never thought of asking for a day off. He enters each year expecting to play every game. If he’s going to get days off, it will be because Gardenhire ordered it ``I will never go into his office and ask for a day off.’’ Span said.

Gardy could use Alexi Casilla or Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the leadoff spot when Span needs a day off.

Position players report in 20 days.....Position players report in 20 days....

THE CANADIAN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Information about Justin Morneau was tough to get last weekend.  Twins GM Bill Smith said Morneau continues to work out in Arizona, But my eyebrows raised during TwinsFest when Smith kept saying the goal is to have him ready by Apr. 1 not March 1.

Where did that come from? Has there been a setback? Did Morneau decide he didn't want to be asked 25,000 times (the attendance at TwinsFest) about the recovery from his concussion? Has he tried swinging a bat? Does he just want to make a dramatic arrival at spring training? Does he just want to follow his Vancouver Canucks, who are playing some decent hockey for a change?

Morneau has been communicating with teammates, who have spoken positively about his workouts. Here's one Twins player talking about working out with him, which is encouraging for the Twins.

There's not a lot of info coming out of Twinsland on this. I've tried to contact Morneau multiple times for a comment but he has not responded. Stay tuned for any developments.

VALENCIA SEEKS YANKEE SECRETS?

Twins third baseman Danny Valencia, when he wasn't on twitter, talked about his offseason. He spent some time in Boca Raton, Fla. working out but ended up in the same Miami gym as a few Yankees players - A-Rod, Jorge Posada and former Yankee Melky Cabrera.

``It's always nice to pick guys' brains. Especially Posada,'' he said. ``You get the catcher's standpoint, which I think is helpful. I can do that with Mauer. To hear an opposing catcher's point of view it helps you out a lot.

Did you talk to A-Rod on playing third? ``A little bit. We worked on some defense. He's an unbelievable person. He works really hard. He seems to be open to anything I ask him. He's been great.''

Doesn't hurt to tap into the brains of  the best players..

OTHER ITEMS AND OBSERVATIONS

The Twins today announced that they will broadcast 25 spring games on the radio this year. The TV schedule should be out next week.

Joe Nathan looked in great shape. He said the one benefit of the several months of rehab is that his conditioning is at an all-time high. It will be very impressive if he's ready to close by the end of spring training.

Talked to outfielder Ben Revere. He doesn't throw very well so he's got to do all he can to help himself. The Twins asked him to redistribute his muscles during the offseason. Revere has a well-built upper body and the thinking is that the bulk might have affected his arm. So he hired a personal trainer this offseason to help him become less bulky.

Talked to Aaron Hicks - who is ranked as the tenth best prospect in baseball by ESPN's Keith Law. He's practically a scratch golfer. But he didn't play at all this offseason to work on his baseball game. Some people have Kyle Gibson as the top prospect in the Twins farm system.I'm sticking with Hicks because of his five-tool potential.

 There are 25 days until the first spring game....25 days.....25 days......25 days.....

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