03/24/09 7:26 PM ET
Outfield offers Twins plenty of options
DH Kubel could even see time in field during Interleague Play
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
With only 13 days remaining before Opening Day on April 6, that situation appears unchanged.
With the way his spring has gone so far, Jason Kubel has made his case to be the temporary fill-in for catcher Joe Mauer in the No. 3 spot of the batting order. And if his regular season continues to provide this type of productivity, the expected designated hitter could find himself in the outfield for games during Interleague Play.
While Kubel -- batting .359 through 14 Spring Training games -- isn't particularly considered as good with the glove as Denard Span or Carlos Gomez, his bat may make up for that on some days.
"If he's swinging the bat very well, and we're going into Interleague Play, Kubel better play some outfield," Gardenhire said before Tuesday's game against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.
"When you don't have the DH and all those things, if he's hotter than a pistol, what are you going to do? You want him in the lineup, so he better be able to play some outfield. And he can. Kubel does fine in the outfield."
Throughout the season, the Twins are expected to shuffle through four outfielders: Span, Gomez, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer.
Span -- who has moved around more than anybody this spring -- appeared in 93 games for the Twins last season, batting .294 with six home runs and 47 RBIs -- including a .284 batting average and 13 stolen bases in 66 games from the leadoff spot.
Throughout Spring Training, however, the 25-year-old speedster has struggled to get going, batting .145 (8-for-55) through 17 games.
But Gardenhire is not concerned.
"He's already proven he can play for me, and play up here, you know what I mean?" said Gardenhire about Span, who finished 0-for-4 with one strikeout in Tuesday's 8-1 win. "I'm not worried about it. My goal is to get guys ready for Opening Day. He's getting at-bats, he's playing just fine. He's put some good swings, some bad, just like everybody else. I'm not too worried about the guy. He can play."
While Gardenhire reaffirmed Span, a lefty, will be the leadoff hitter when he's in the starting lineup, he could get a break when a tough left-hander is on the mound for the opposing team.
In those situations, the leadoff spot will fluctuate as much as the outfield.
"We'll just ad-lib, just like when he doesn't go on the road [in Spring Training] -- I use Gomez, I use a number of guys," Gardenhire said. "If he's not in the lineup that day, we'll figure it out. I've got [Alexi] Casilla I can lead off; if [Brendan] Harris is in the lineup, bat him second. We've got all kinds of options.
"We're going to have to have some maneuverability because of our situation in the outfield."
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.