MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota first-base coach Jerry White thinks back to a few years ago, watching then-Twins shortstop Jason Bartlett start to develop confidence in his basestealing ability, having played a couple of seasons at the big league level.
It's the same kind of confidence that White is starting to see from current Twins leadoff man Denard Span.
"When Bartlett came up, he was a little slow in taking off, but each year they learn and it's been the same way with Denard," White said. "And he's going to get even better. But he's surprised me lately in a good way with a couple of his steals. He just needs to keep working on his confidence and start taking opportunities when they're there. Some will be outs and sometimes you'll be safe, but he's got to continue to be aggressive."
After stealing 23 bases in 2009, Span entered Thursday with 13 steals through 46 games, including four stolen bases in his past three contests. He's been making the most of his attempts, having been caught only once so far this season.
Span's goal has been to increase his total of steals this season but also to be smart about when he tries to steal.
"Jerry White has been trying to get me to be more aggressive," Span said. "That's one reason I've been more successful lately. And it's also just knowing who is on the mound, who is pitching and who is catching. It's about picking the right time to be aggressive."
In the first inning of Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Yankees, Span stole third base for the first time this season after leading off with a double. The decision wasn't quite applauded by the coaching staff due to the fact that Joe Mauer was at the plate with one out, but the club is happy that Span is getting more comfortable reading situations and figuring out when the best time might be to try to steal.
"Ideally, I wouldn't steal third with Joe Mauer up, but it's something where I feel that we're playing the Yankees and we always seem like we can't get over the hump," Span said. "I said, 'Let's take a chance and put some pressure on these guys.' It seems like we always play too safe against these guys, so I just decided to take a chance."
The Twins entered Thursday leading the Majors in stolen-base percentage at an impressive 86 percent, although the team has been pretty frugal with those chances. Minnesota's 25 stolen bases rank in the bottom half of the Majors, with the Padres leading the big leagues with 54 steals.