TWINS: Span, disappointed in '10 play, eager to improve his game
Denard Span's 2010 season was solid, but not what the Twins center fielder wanted. After an auspicious rookie season, and a five-year contract extension, his batting average dipped from .311 to .264, and his on-base percentage and RBI totals followed suit.
"Yeah, I'm not happy," he said. "I wasn't pleased with what I did last year."
Span had career highs in stolen bases (28) and doubles (24) and equaled his 2009 total with 10 triples. Just as important, the Twins' leadoff hitter set up teammates with long at-bats, making pitchers show more of their wares than they wanted.
"I can pick out a lot of positives. I learned a lot," Span said. "I don't look at my season as a failure. We still won the division, and I led off close to 160 games. I feel like I still brought things to help the team. But I know what I'm capable of doing."
Manager Ron Gardenhire said he thinks Span wore down at the end of the season because he didn't have enough time off. He played all but nine games and started the first 62. His 705 plate appearances were a career high.
"He had a lot of at-bats," Gardenhire said. "He takes a lot of pitches. He does a lot of things for his teammates. He puts himself in the hole to make sure they see pitches. So he does his job; now it's my job to rest him a little bit more and give him the breaks he needs to get the best out of him."
Having Jason Repko for an entire season will help. Maybe the team's best defensive outfielder, Repko was called up
in late June and played the rest of the season with the big league club. He signed a one-year, $600,000 deal for 2011.
"That's huge to me," Gardenhire said. "Being able to give Denard breaks is going to be huge this year."
One vote for faster track: There was a lot of talk last season about Target Field robbing players of home runs and virtually no talk of it stealing singles. But Span said that was the case, at least for him.
The Metrodome and its spongy artificial turf was kind to groundball hitters, especially groundball hitters with speed.
"It just seemed that hits (up the middle), last year at Target Field I wouldn't get those, and did at the Metrodome," Span said. "It just felt at times like the infielders were catching up to those up the middle. It seemed like the grass would slow it up just a little, and I was out bang-bang at first."
With an upgrade on speed up the middle with infielders Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, maybe it's time to clip that infield grass.
"I hope so," Span said. "That would be smart. We have a lot of speed on our team. I hope they would make the infield a little faster than it was last year."
Swarzak eyes bullpen spot: After missing six weeks last season because of a broken foot, Anthony Swarzak needed innings this winter. He found them playing in Venezuela with the Aragua Tigers.
Swarzak, 25, played on a team with Twins products Wilson Ramos and Jose Mijares, going 2-3 with a 4.83 earned-run average in 31 2/3 innings, an improvement on what was kind of a lost season at Class AAA Rochester.
A comebacker in his third start pitching for the Red Wings broke Swarzak's foot.
He missed seven starts, then got "beat around for a little bit" as he regained strength in his legs. He finished with a 5-12 record and 6.21 ERA.
It was a major disappointment after starting 12 games for the Twins in 2009 (3-7, 6.25) and what he considered a strong 2010 spring. But there are major league job openings in the bullpen this season, and Swarzak is taking aim.
"I like to think I have a chance in any situation, but especially this year," he said. "I've worked hard this offseason and just want to be as efficient as I can, and hopefully impress the right people."
Briefly: TwinsFest proceeds go to charities supported by the Twins' Community Fund, and catcher Joe Mauer led the way this weekend. Though the team didn't know how much money was raised in this year's three-day event, executive director of public affairs Kevin Smith said an autographed Mauer jersey was auctioned at $7,100, and a picture-and-autograph session with the 2009 AL MVP raised $6,500.
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