From a production standpoint, there’s little doubt the Minnesota Twins’ outfield has been the most stable part of a rickety team this season.
Josh Willingham hit his 33rd home run of the season Thursday, Aug. 30, continuing to raise his career high in the first year of a three-year, $21 million deal that looks like a bargain. Ben Revere has emerged as an everyday player in right field, hitting .303, and Denard Span’s .286 is his best average since 2009.
But those three won’t look back on Thursday as one of their better days of the season. Willingham and Revere each were involved in key moments of a 5-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Target Field, and Span went back on the disabled list after the game, effectively shutting him down for the first half of September.
For the team, the loss was just another setback in a stretch that’s been full of them — the Twins have dropped 17 of their last 21 games. But for the outfielders, this sort of day is a rarity.
“I don’t really care how we lose,” Willingham said. “The fact that we’re not getting it done, not getting W’s, is frustrating.”
Willingham’s two-run shot in the eighth inning pulled the Twins within a run, but that only balanced the ledger after he had dropped Jesus Montero’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. Dustin Ackley was likely to score on the play regardless of whether Willingham had made the catch, but Trayvon Robinson, who had a two-run single later in the inning, wouldn’t have come to the plate
if Willingham hadn’t dropped the ball.
And in the ninth inning, Revere hit a bouncer toward first baseman Justin Smoak with runners on first and third. First-base umpire Paul Nauert called Revere out, and though it looked as though Revere might have eluded Smoak’s tag, replays showed he stepped out of the base line and missed first base.
The lasting effect of the game, though, had to do with Span. Placing the center fielder on the DL seemed odd, two days before the Twins could start carrying up to 40 players. But the Twins had to make that move if they want to recall outfielder Matt Carson, which seems likely. They had optioned Carson to the minors Aug. 23 and couldn’t recall him for 10 days after that without putting a player on the disabled list.
Span first injured his shoulder while diving for a ball Aug. 12, but returned to the field Aug. 23 in Texas after missing nine games. The Twins had kept Span off the disabled list, believing he could play through the injury, but he missed the final three games of the Mariners series.
After Span took himself out of the lineup Tuesday, an MRI revealed only a sprain to his shoulder. But with the outfielder struggling to stay on the field, the Twins decided to sit him down and let the injury heal. Still, he can’t return until Sept. 12, meaning he will have played four games in the month since the injury occurred.
“I had my bags packed this morning, ready to go on the road trip (to Kansas City and Chicago),” Span said. “But I had a talk with (general manager) Terry (Ryan), and we agreed it’s best for me to take longer for this thing to die down. … It’s not fair to the team, coming in and scratching myself from the lineup an hour before the game. It’s kind of tough to go up there and try to swing if you have pain.”
With Span out, the Twins could get more time to look at a call-up such as Oswaldo Arcia or Aaron Hicks. But injuries continue to be part of the story with the 28-year-old Span, and how much he’ll play the rest of the season remains in question.
“I’m just going to listen to my body,” he said. “Hopefully, these 10 days and the treatment and the anti-inflammatory (medicine) will help out. But I’m going to be smart, as well, when I come off the DL and do what I think is best.”
Until then, the Twins will play without him and hope a bad day for a solid outfield is just a hiccup.