Tue 24 May 2011
Although the Twins offense has been among the most anemic in baseball this year, it’s not because of Denard Span. After a subpar 2010 campaign, the Twins leadoff man has returned to form this year, hitting .301 with a .375 on-base-percentage entering Wednesday’s game.
Not that the 27-year-old is satisfied; Span sees himself as an All Star and 50 base stealer - he has just three so far this year. The loquacious centerfielder and I had a quick chat on Monday.
DZ: Obviously things aren’t going well from a team standpoint, but you’re off to a solid start, how would you assess your play so far?
SPAN: I would put the team first and say we’re not happy, but since you’re asking me how I’m playing I would say I am playing OK. I am not playing as good as I think I am capable of playing (and) at this point in the year, I am not happy or content with where I am at, but I look forward to picking it up.
DZ: What did you take away from last year on a personal level?
SPAN: I didn’t have the best season as an individual, but I learned last year - because we were winning and having a lot of fun - I learned to take myself out of - take the “I” out of team. The team was playing well, I was leading off and playing everyday - I think last year what I went through, it taught me about teamwork and staying together.
DZ: I talked to you at the end of last season - right before the regular season was over - and asked you to grade yourself and you said that you wouldn’t do that until after the season. What did you give yourself for a grade?
SPAN: Last year, I would say like a D. Right now, I am probably at a C.
DZ: Being a leadoff guy, your job is to get on base and be there to basically score runs. Is it hard not to press when the guys below you maybe aren’t hitting and your not scoring as many runs as team as you’d like to?
SPAN: It is. When things aren’t going good and the offense is stagnant and we get those opportunities or those situations to drive in runs, I think we all - to this point - have been putting pressure on ourselves to hit a 10-run homer instead of just hitting a single and getting a base hit with guys in scoring position.
DZ: You’ve always been a pretty positive person and this is the first time - at the big league level - that you’ve experienced losing like this. Is it hard to stay positive, is it something that comes naturally?
SPAN: I think it’s just something that comes natural. I’ve always tried to be positive in whatever I do. Even if something bad happens, I try to look at the positive in whatever situation I am going through in life. It’s just because of my faith.
DZ: As a team, you’ve been so successful the last few years, when you hit a losing streak like you had (9 games earlier in May), is it just kind of a shock to have things go like that?
SPAN: Yeah, it’s definitely been disappointing to start the first 45 games of the season the way we have started it. Definitely a big surprise because nobody coming into spring training thought we were going to start off this way. We had high hopes going into spring training and just to start this way has been a shock and all those words that you said. It’s definitely been those things.
DZ: I was looking at your stats and you just have four stolen base attempts so far, is that something you’ve consciously limited or have you just not had the opportunities?
SPAN: That’s a great question. I am definitely not happy about it. That’s part of my game, that’s one of the reasons why I said I am not happy or content with how I am playing so far. That’s part of my game that I have to pick up and I want to pick up, but it comes with opportunity. We have been down in a lot of games, so it has been hard to get those opportunities so…I have to get into that video room and study pitchers more and do the things I can to become a great base stealer.
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:
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