Denard Span: “Trust me, I am my hardest critic”


In 2009 - his first full big league season - Denard Span hit .311, reached base at a .392 clip and scored 97 runs. 2010 didn’t go as well. The Twins leadoff man saw his average dip 47 points, his on-base-percentage drop 61 and he scored 12 fewer times for an otherwise improved offense.

While Span wouldn’t go into specifics, you can bet he’s more aware and frustrated with his drop in production than anyone. You also know he realizes a strong postseason will atone for it all. If the Twins are finally going to beat the Yankees in the ALDS, Span will need to set the table for the team’s big boppers and be a nuisance for New York pitchers on the base paths.

The 26-year-old centerfielder took some time out to talk during the Toronto series….

DZ: The long regular season is winding down - there’s obviously more to come - how is your body feeling right now?

SPAN: It feels OK. It feels about as good as it’s going to feel at this time of year. It definitely doesn’t feel how it felt coming into spring training, but I am holding up, the body feels OK. I am able to go out there and perform my job.

DZ: This is your third year (in the big leagues) - not quite three full years - but three years and you’ve been in a pennant race every year. You’ve been pretty lucky that way, what’s that been like for you?

SPAN: It’s been a lot of fun, I’ll tell you that. I’ve been blessed enough - like you said, my first two and half, three years in the big leagues - to be fortunate enough to be playing for something late in the season. It’s been a fun ride. Like I said, I count my blessings.

DZ: Is this the best team you think you’ve been on so far?

SPAN: I do, I do. I think we have every piece of the puzzle. I think in past years, we were a little thin in certain areas. I think this year we are pretty solid across the board.

DZ: Do you think it’s a deeper team as far as the line-up and the bench?

SPAN: That’s exactly it. That’s the biggest difference from past years to this year. At every position on the field we are pretty solid. Like you said, our bench looks pretty good and our line-up is - I feel like we can swing with the bigger teams.

DZ: On a personal level, how would you rate - grade - your performance this year?

SPAN: That’s something I probably won’t talk about until the season is over. Right now we are playing well as a team, so I think that’s a irrelevant to a sense. Once the season - for me - once it’s over, I’ll - trust me - I am my hardest critic, so I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror and assess what I’ve done, but I think right now it’s about the team. Right now, we are trying to accomplish a goal.

DZ: Is that something where you sit down at the end of the year and do an inventory?

SPAN: Yeah, I think everybody does that. I think - no matter what type of job you have - I think after you turn in a book report or whatever - I think you look back and you look at yourself in the mirror and you assess what you did well and what you didn’t do so well in. I think that’s what the offseason is for, to regroup and come back the following year a little bit better.

DZ: This is - as everyone knows - the first year in Target Field, what have you learned as a hitter and a fielder about this stadium?

SPAN: As a hitter - keep the ball out of the air - high out of the air - hit more line drives than fly balls. For some reason - I was noticing yesterday - when were on the road in Kansas City and Detroit - their infield just looked a little bigger than ours. As the year has gone by I’ve noticed I haven’t had a lot of ground balls get through the infield. I don’t know why, but I’ve noticed that. Defensively, it’s a lot of ground to cover in centerfield, but usually when balls get high, I am able to run underneath them.

DZ: Do your knees feel better not being on turf all year?

SPAN: Oh yeah, yeah - my legs definitely feel a lot better not being on that turf for 80 days - I’ll tell you that.

DZ: Maybe not so much recently, but there was a stretch there where when you got on base you were getting picked off a little more. Is that something (pitchers) just started looking for with you?

SPAN: I can’t - you gotta ask the pitchers (laughs) - I don’t know what the heck they were doing. It was just one of those things - this game - you see crazy things happen. As many times as I did get picked off, I felt like there was a handful of times where I was back in there, but umpires were obviously thinking differently. I’d go back and look at replays and I was safe, but they were calling me out. I think it was just a combination of me catching some bad breaks and with those added bad breaks, it was magnified.

DZ: Base stealing seems to be - I don’t want to say misunderstood - but a lot of people don’t seem to know a lot about it, at least from a fan’s perspective. Obviously, just athletic ability and speed isn’t enough…

SPAN: No, more goes into it than just speed.

DZ: What percentage of it is athletic and what is mental?

SPAN: Speed is obviously the biggest ingredient you need to be a base stealer. At the same time, it is not just about speed, you have to be smart, just like hitting. You have to be intelligent and you have to know when and when not to go - study the pitchers and study the catchers too. It’s not about just going.

DZ: With hitters though, everybody studies pitchers…are their that many experts out there (on base stealing)?

SPAN: That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I am pretty sure there are. You look at some of the greatest base stealers, they obviously had to study.

See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:

October 2: Scott Baker
September 26: Kevin Slowey
September 16: Ben Revere
September 14: Nick Blackburn
September 7: Brian Fuentes
September 5: Randy Flores
August 23: Matt Capps
August 19: Brian Duensing
July 29: Jesse Crain
July 23: Ron Mahay
July 21: Danny Valencia
July 11: Michael Cuddyer
July 8: Jason Repko
July 5: Nick Punto
June 12: Jason Kubel
June 9: Drew Butera
May 11: Denard Span
April 25: Justin Morneau
April 22: Alex Burnett
April 21: Mike Redmond
April 16: J.J. Hardy

One Response to “Denard Span: “Trust me, I am my hardest critic””

  1. Q&A with Twins Reliever Matt Guerrier » MinnesotaSCORE Says:

    […] 4: Denard Span October 2: Scott Baker September 26: Kevin Slowey September 16: Ben Revere September 14: Nick […]

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