SEATTLE (AP)—Denard Span still has an apartment in Rochester, N.Y, his minor-league residence until five weeks ago. His clothes are still packed in his car.
Time to finally rip up that lease and unpack that ride. There’s nothing minor league about Span anymore.
“Boy, he’s been some kind of player for us. … I wish I was his agent right now,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose Twins won the final game of the series against the American League’s worst team.
The Twins had blown leads of 6-0 and 2-0 in the first two games of the series to fall out of first place. They would have blown a 4-0 edge in this one without the catalyst who’s quickly become known as “Span Man.”
Minnesota led 4-3 in the seventh when Raul Ibanez, who had a Seattle record-tying 14 RBIs in three games before going without one Wednesday, singled with two outs.
Reliever Jesse Crain relieved Dennys Reyes, and Beltre hit a drive toward the right-field bleachers. Span drifted to the wall, leaped and snared the ball just before it hit a railing and screen protecting fans in the first row.
The ball juggled around inside Span’s glove as he triumphantly landed on the warning track. Beltre stood at disbelief between first and second base for more than a minute, his hands frozen to his hips through the inning change.
“That one, I really allowed myself to think was gone,” Seattle manager Jim Riggleman said. “I didn’t think there was any chance that ball would stay in the park.”
Though Span said he can dunk a basketball and “yeah, I have some hops,” he said he’d never robbed anyone of a home run in his life.
“In the minors, I didn’t play that deep,” he said.
His three hits raised his average to .315 in 44 games.
“I never dreamed this,” Span said. “I’ve always had confidence in myself, but I never imagined I’d be helping this team this soon.”
The 20th overall pick in the 2002 draft didn’t even get a courtesy September call-up last season. Then he lost a spring-training battle with Carlos Gomez in center field and trudged back to that apartment at Triple A. He’s been promoted to Minnesota twice this season only because Michael Cuddyer got hurt, most recently a finger injury for which the outfielder may return next week.
When he does, Span isn’t going anywhere.
“He’ll bat No. 1, and he’ll play every day. I can tell you that,” Gardenhire said.
When asked what he’s brought to a Twins team that reclaimed first place for the first time in three months with Span starring, Gardenhire gushed like a garden hose.
“Calming. Super defense. Understands the game more. Has grown up a lot,” the manager said. “I can’t really think of too many things he hasn’t done well since he’s been back.”
Beltre had two hits and two RBIs for Seattle. The Mariners were denied a season-high fourth consecutive win and first three-game sweep of an AL team in their lost season.
Brandon Harris’ two-run double off Mark Lowe in the eighth and Span’s RBI infield single off Jared Wells later in the inning made the Twins more comfortable for their flight to Kansas City for an off-day.
Span could have had a fifth RBI, but Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn (5-11) scrambled to make a lunging flip just in time to first base on Span’s drag bunt with Harris at third and two outs in the fourth.
In the third, he hit Washburn’s poorly placed 0-2 floater into the right-field corner for a triple. It was Span’s 14th hit of the season, and eighth for extra bases.
Washburn allowed five hits and four runs—three earned—in six innings. He struck out six and walked three. Washburn has one win in his last six starts.
Gardenhire said Cuddyer will remain on rehabilitation assignment at Rochester through the weekend. Cuddyer, out with a strained tendon in left index finger since June 28, was to have six at-bats in a doubleheader Wednesday. His first rehab game was rained out Tuesday. “I know he said he’d be ready” by the weekend, Gardenhire said. “But just because his hand feels good doesn’t mean he’s ready to hit … I don’t need a body. I need an offensive player.” … Brandon Morrow, the fifth overall draft choice in 2006 sent from Seattle’s bullpen to Triple A Tuesday to become a starter, threw 1 2-3 scoreless innings in his first start for Tacoma. Morrow allowed one hit and struck out one while adhering to a pitch limit of 35. The Mariners hope to have Morrow, who had 10 saves this summer while J.J. Putz was hurt, in their rotation before the season ends.