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Updated: July 8th, 2011 6:23pm
Notebook: Denard Span progressing well; Thome dealing with toe issue

Notebook: Denard Span progressing well; Thome dealing with toe issue

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Twins are getting closer to having one of their key missing pieces back in the lineup.

Outfielder Denard Span ran the bases on Friday for the first time since being sidelined with a concussion in early June, and he reported no problems to the training staff afterward.

"He's pretty much up to speed," head athletic trainer Rick McWane said of Span, who traveled with the team to Chicago so he could participate in pre-game workouts and batting practice.

"We're just going to keep him here through the weekend and have him repeat what he did (Friday) and see where he's at after the break. ...

"If he can get through this weekend without a return of symptoms, I would say when the break is over we should be pretty close (to a rehab assignment)."

Span would need to pass an impact test before major league baseball clears him to come off the concussion disabled list. But considering he felt dizziness and fogginess after a workout at Target Field last Friday, Span has apparently come a long ways over the past week.

Mauer will do 'whatever we ask'

From the time he began taking groundballs during batting practice until the final out on Thursday night, Joe Mauer has made two things clear: He's a catcher, and he's only playing first base to help the team in a pinch.

Manager Ron Gardenhire was asked on Friday about Mauer's apparent apprehension.

"He's just trying to make a point," Gardenhire said. "He's a catcher, and he'll play over (at first base). He'll do whatever we ask ... He'll do whatever we ask, but he wants it known that he's a catcher. He likes to catch, he feels really good behind the plate, he loves running the game, but we could use him at first base, and we'll be able to do that as we go along here in the second half, to keep his bat in the lineup and also give him those days from getting beat up behind the plate too often.

"He's fine with going to first base. He's got no problem with that. But he's a catcher, and he's an All-Star catcher, and I just think he wants it known that's what he is, but he'll do whatever it takes to win baseball games for this team. I think that's the point we're trying to get across here. He's made an effort to go out and play first base, and he did really well at it, and that's a good thing for us, because (Justin) Morneau's out."

To illustrate his point further, Gardenhire painted a hypothetical scenario, saying -- with his tongue pressed pretty firmly against his cheek -- "If Morneau comes back like he's going to do in August, then we might have (Mauer) play the outfield somewhere too ...

"Oh, write that one. Look at the tweets go now. Look at the bloggers firing up there now."

Wait, did Gardenhire put the words "Mauer" and "outfield" in the same sentence?

"See, there you go. I love it. I just absolutely love it. I'm trying to explain to you that he'll play wherever. If I ask him to go out to right field or left field, 'You want to try that, Joe?' He'd say, 'OK, if that's what you need.' That's I'm trying to get the point across to you. If I ask him to do that, he'll go out and give it a go, if it takes that getting his bat in the lineup. And that's kind of the point I'm trying to get across to all of you here -- that he's not a stubborn mule. He's a pretty good guy."

In other words, Mauer won't be playing in the outfield. But Gardenhire isn't afraid to ask him to do anything.

Make sense?

Thome's toe a nuisance

No reasonable person expected Jim Thome to repeat his 2010 performance in 2011. The stars aligned for the 40-year-old both health-wise and production-wise, as he mashed 25 home runs in 340 plate appearances.

Due to back, oblique and quad issues, Thome has tallied only 124 plate appearances -- hitting .228/.363/.446 with six homers -- while bouncing back and forth from the disabled list.

After playing three consecutive games Tuesday through Thursday, Thome received Friday night off against right-hander Gavin Floyd, in large part because of a new ailment.

"He's had a little bit of a toe thing, a toe issue, from the last day at home," Gardenhire said. "There was a big hole (in the batter's box), and he took a swing and kind of got his toe a little bit, so he's kind of fighting that a little bit. You could see the swing last night was barking ... It's probably one of those play a game or two, then you've got to give him a day here, try to keep him on track."

"Gardenhire said Thome would probably be back in the lineup on Saturday against left-hander Mark Buerhle, against whom Thome owns a .227/.320/.545 career batting line against with two home runs in 25 plate appearances.

"We just have to guard against him getting too many (games) and hurting himself," Gardenhire said.

"He's obviously had the back problems, and we don't want to go there. We all know if you've had back problems, it's no fun for anybody and it's hard to swing. So that's always an issue, but this is about his toe right now. He played through it (Thursday), no big deal, and he could probably play through it (Friday), but you just can't take too many chances here, and we're just not going to."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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