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Denard Span in Center Field...The Way It Was Meant To Be

When the Minnesota Twins drafted Torii Hunter in the 1993 MLB Draft, there was no question that he would become Kirby Puckett's replacement in center field for the Twins.

Hunter was selected with the 20th overall pick out of Pine Bluff (AR) High School.

When Puckett retired in 1995, the Twins filled center field with Rich Becker and Otis Nixon until Hunter played his first full year in 1999.

Hunter was a staple for the Twins during the 2000s, winning seven of his nine Gold Gloves, two of his three All-Star appearances, and led the Twins to four of their five division titles.

When the Minnesota Twins drafted Denard Span in the 2002 MLB Draft, there was no question that he would become Torii Hunter's replacement in center field for the Twins.

Span was selected with the 20th overall pick out of Tampa Catholic High School.

When Hunter departed the Twins via free agency after 2007, the Twins gave a hard look at Span to be the starting center fielder, who had been waiting for Hunter to depart to take his spot.

But then the unexpected happened: Carlos Gomez.

Gomez was acquired in the Johan Santana trade from the Mets, and competed with Span for the starting job.

And won.

Gomez started the season in center field against Hunter's Los Angeles Angels, and Span began the season at AAA-Rochester.

Too bad that Span became everything that Twins management hoped Gomez would become.

During their two season with the Twins, Span had a better batting average (.305 vs .246), more hits (282 vs 221), runs scored (167 vs 130), and every other major offensive statistic than Carlos Gomez. Gomez began the year at the lead off spot, but finished at the bottom of the order. Span took over the lead off spot.

Span also finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2008 (the season he started in the minors) and led the league in triples in 2009.

But, thankfully, the Carlos Gomez experiment is over. Gomez was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, leaving center field open for it's rightful owner.

Just as Kirby Puckett mentored Hunter and worked out with him in the off season, Hunter did that for Span.

Span is next in line of protege that will roam center field for the Twins...the way it should have been to begin with.

Check out more of Zeke Fuhrman's articles at www.bleacherreport.com