Notes: Span eyeing center field spot

Notes: Span eyeing center field spot

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Denard Span, one of three players vying to be the next Twins starting center fielder, watched with interest last year when another talented young center fielder on a different team was given a chance to win a starting job and made the most of that opportunity.

That player was Chris Young, a former Chicago White Sox prospect Span had played against in the Minor Leagues.

Young, dealt by the White Sox to the Diamondbacks on Dec. 20, 2005, in the trade that brought Javier Vazquez to Chicago, played in 30 games in 2006 before blossoming as the D-backs' starting center fielder last season.

"I played against him in the Appalachian League and the Arizona Fall League," Span said Monday following the Twins' workout at the Lee County Sports Complex. "He got an opportunity and did a great job. I'm happy he's doing well, but it was also frustrating for me because I wanted to get an opportunity too."

That opportunity has arrived.

Span is competing with Jason Pridie and Carlos Gomez for the right to succeed Torii Hunter as Minnesota's regular center fielder.

"I'm just ready to show everybody," Span said. "I know I can do it. [Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] told all of us [the center field spot is] wide open. We've got guys with a lot of talent who are all trying to win the job."

Though Span, a first-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, has no Major League experience, Young showed that a player can make the jump to such a demanding position despite limited big league time. And Span is a year younger than Young.

Gardenhire likes what he sees of all three and will let Spring Training events determine who starts.

"They're all talented," Gardenhire said. "I expect it will be a battle."

That's fine by Span, who knows that this could be the opportunity he has been craving. He also knows it might not work out the way he's hoping and one of the bits of advice Hunter gave him helps Span accept that possibility.

"He told me 'Just wait on God,'" Span said. "'God is always on time.'"

No hard feelings: Though he enjoyed the last four years in Houston, new Twins third baseman Mike Lamb doesn't hold any ill will towards the Astros for letting him go.

Lamb signed a two-year, $6.6 million free agent contract with the Twins with a club option for 2009 worth $3.5 million or a $100,000 buyout.

"When a new GM comes on he wants to bring in his own guys," Lamb said. "I understand that, the same thing happened when I was with Texas [in 2003]. It's part of the game."

The Astros didn't want to give Lamb, 32, a multi-year deal, though he hit .289 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 311 at bats last season after batting .307 and scoring 70 runs in 126 games the year before.

Quotable: "We lost some good guys but the guys we've got coming in are young and hungry and really talented too, so I think that it's going to be an exciting year."-- Twins catcher Joe Mauer

Jim Molony is a writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.