Denard Span is surprisingly leading off and playing center field for the Twins tonight in his first game action since August 13.
Span suffered a concussion in a collision at the plate on June 3 and pushed himself to return two months later despite continuing to experience dizziness and other symptoms. He went 2-for-35 (.057) in nine games and was shut down again, but has said all along that he wanted to play at least a couple times before the year was over.
Obviously it’s great to see Span back, but there’s no indication that he’s completely symptom-free and rushing his recovery just so he can appear in a few meaningless September games seems unnecessarily risky for the Twins.
Last time Span clearly wasn’t himself despite going on a minor-league rehab assignment before rejoining the lineup and Justin Morneau recently suffered a setback with his own concussion recovery 15 months after his initial brain injury.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.