And like Hunter had to do at that time, Span has had to change some things about his own production at the plate. Recently, Span has worked on making changes to his swing, altering his batting grip by moving his hands closer together. It's been a slight adjustment that has helped Span change from a slap hitter to having a bit more strength in his swing."I feel like I have a lot more whip with my hands together," Span said. "And now I'm able to drive the ball more than before." That doesn't mean Span has changed his approach from using his speed as one of his greatest assets. It's that kind of blazing speed that caused Gardenhire to chide the young center fielder about his inability to keep his batting helmet on as he's flown around the bases this spring. But there has been more than just offensive growth for Span. Hunter said he's been watching Span develop in all assets of the game, including the thing that Hunter prides himself most in -- defense. "In the outfield, we've been talking and working a lot," Hunter said. "[Outfield instructor] Jerry White has been working with him, as far as getting rid of the ball quicker. But Denard's already an athlete. Whatever you tell him to do, he'll do it. If he doesn't know how to do it, the first time you tell him he has it just like that, and that's a sign of a great athlete. And that's what the Twins have in him." Span knows this spring is important, because he he can let the organization know he's about ready for his opportunity. And after watching Span play in nearly every game this spring, the Twins aren't so concerned anymore about whether the prospect is ready to make the jump. "He is going to be available to us this year, where in the past he's had things to learn," Gardenhire said. "If something happens with Torii, we'll bring him up and let him have a chance to play." Getting the chance to play with Hunter is something Span hopes could happen. But with the likelihood of Hunter remaining in Minnesota past this season growing more remote by the day, Span has prepared himself for what could be to come. And that's Span in center field and Hunter donning another uniform. "Of course it's in the back of my mind," Span said. "I don't want him to leave, but I have to be prepared. No matter what, the things he's taught me will always be with me."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.