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Minnesota's Span shows off for mentor

August 24, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

The teacher got schooled in the first two games of this series, Minnesota Twins rookie Denard Span getting the best of Angels veteran Torii Hunter, the former Twins star who is one of Span's mentors.

Hunter and Span, a first-round pick in 2002, became such good friends in the Twins organization that Span spends a week each winter at Hunter's home in Texas, working out and talking baseball.

And when Span was in the minor leagues, the outfielder called Hunter regularly for advice, "whether he was happy or sad," Hunter said.

After Span went five for nine with five runs batted in, including a 12th-inning game-winning single in the Twins' 2-1 win Thursday and a three-run homer in the team's 9-0 win Friday, Hunter, 33, was wondering whether he may have taught the 24-year-old too well.

"I'm glad to see he's doing well, just not against us," Hunter said. "Other than that, I'm happy for him. . . . He has an opportunity to show everyone what he can do, and he's doing it."

The Twins called up Span, a speedy leadoff hitter, from triple-A Rochester on June 30 after outfielder Michael Cuddyer injured a finger.

Span, who spent most of April in the big leagues, was hitting .325 with a .407 on-base percentage, three homers and 26 runs batted in through Friday, with 26 walks and 28 strikeouts in 203 at-bats.

Caught in a rut

Jeff Mathis had a lengthy closed-door meeting Saturday with Manager Mike Scioscia, but the focus wasn't defense -- the catcher's throwing problems have led to 12 errors, most among American League catchers.

It was offense, which was why batting coach Mickey Hatcher sat in. Since going four for five with a home run and six RBIs against Cleveland on July 23, Mathis is nine for 64 (.141) with five RBIs, his average falling from .228 to .205.

"He'll catch [today]," Scioscia said. "Mickey and I talked about some adjustments he needs to make on the offensive end."

Difference of opinion

Scioscia took exception to pitcher Joe Saunders' assessment that the Angels, who held a 15-game division lead despite losing seven of nine games through Friday, were "tired and kind of going through the motions."

"We haven't played with an edge, but I don't think we've been going through the motions," Scioscia said. "If you look at the way guys are preparing, it's as good as any time we've seen.

"On the field, we haven't been in sync in a lot of areas, but it's not because of a lack of effort, and I think that's what going through the motions implies. I don't agree with that."

Moving up, moving down

The Angels recalled right-hander Jason Bulger, who was 4-0 with an 0.66 ERA at triple-A Salt Lake, and sent first baseman Kendry Morales to Salt Lake.


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