MINNEAPOLIS — As Major League Baseball’s trade deadline looms, Denard Span doesn’t know if Monday night was his last game with the Minnesota Twins. If it was, though, Span made it a memorable one.
Span turned in a pair of highlight-reel catches and also had a pair of hits to help Minnesota beat the Chicago White Sox by a 7-6 final Monday at Target Field.
Span’s first impressive catch of the night came in the top of the fifth inning. With a runner on first and nobody out, Chicago’s Alex Rios took Twins starter Cole De Vries deep to left-center field. Rios’ long drive appeared to be headed over the fence and into the bullpen in left-center, but Span had other ideas. He sprinted to the wall in the gap, leaped up and made the catch against the wall to rob Rios of at least an extra-base hit.
“I just got a good read on it,” Span said. “Rios hit it high. Off the bat, I thought it was going to be a no-doubter, but I just kept running. I was able to kind of time it and just leap and let my athletic ability take over.”
As soon as Span made the catch, De Vries had a big grin on his face, knowing that Span likely saved at least one run, if not two.
“When Rios first hit it, I didn’t think he hit it as far as he did. I kind of saw the angle both of those guys were taking, and I was like, ‘Oh, God, don’t do that.’ I started getting real worried, and I saw him jump at the wall,” De Vries said. “It was awesome. That was spectacular.”
After replays were shown on the big screens at Target Field, Twins fans gave Span a lengthy standing ovation. After the game, Span said it was one of the loudest ovations he’s received in his career, matched only by the game in 2010 in which he hit three triples.
“That was pretty impressive,” Span said of the ovation. “I made the catch and I think the fans appreciated it once they saw the replay. Just for them to clap and go as loud as they did for that amount of time — that was pretty special.”
Span’s defensive display wasn’t over, however. Two innings later, he robbed White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski for the final out of the seventh inning. Pierzynski hit a short liner into center field, and Span ran up and slid feet first to make the grab. It saved another Chicago hit and once again brought the Twins faithful to their feet.
“The one coming in, the line drive, those are really hard to read,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That was a hell of a play also. He had a heck of a night out there. That’s fun to watch.”
Thanks in part to Span’s defense, Minnesota took a tie game into the bottom of the ninth inning. The Twins won on a sacrifice fly by Jamey Carroll, their fourth straight win since they were swept last week in Chicago by this same White Sox team.
As impressive as Span was Monday, he admitted after the game that the looming trade deadline of 3 p.m. CT Tuesday has been weighing on him. Last season, Span — who was dealing with a concussion at the time of the trade deadline — was mentioned in trade rumors as a struggling Minnesota squad was looking to sell at the deadline. One year later, Span’s name has again come up as a possible trade chip for the Twins given that the team has decent outfield depth throughout the organization and Span is currently under a team-friendly contract through 2014 (with a club option for the 2015 season).
Minnesota already dealt left-hander Francisco Liriano to the White Sox on Saturday, and they’ll face him when he makes his Chicago debut Tuesday at Target Field. Will Span be on the move as well?
“It’s on my mind,” Span said of the trade talks. “I told myself tonight, if this is my last game, I’m going to go out and have fun and go out in style. It was a lot of fun. We’ll see what happens.”