Minnesota Twins: Player Watch 30 Sep 11

RHP Joe Nathan picked up a handful of dirt from the Target Field mound following the season-ending victory over Kansas City, just as he did after the Twins’ final game at the Metrodome in 2009. “That was for me,” Nathan said. “If I’m back next season, I’ll put it back.”

1B Justin Morneau was limited to 69 games because of a variety of injuries, from nerve damage in his left arm to a concussion that knocked him out of the final 29 games. He had three surgeries this year, once to repair a bulging neck disk that was causing pain and weakness up and down his left arm, once to remove a cyst in his left knee, and once to clean bone spurs out of his right foot. He still can’t feel his left index finger, the result of nerve damage that might not heal for months. “They said the numbness is the last thing to go away,” he said. “So if that happens someday, I’ll be happy, but I’m not going to hold my breath until it does.” But Morneau said he believes he’ll have a normal offseason.

CF Denard Span was already happy with his last week of baseball. After missing 92 games because of a concussion and migraines, he was pleased just to be back on the field and have some success. Helping win the season finale with a pinch-hit double was icing on the cake. Span wound up playing in five games over the last week and played well, hitting two triples, two doubles and scoring five runs. He also made some good plays in the outfield.

LHP Francisco Liriano said on the last day of the season that he never got over the shoulder problem that sidelined him the first week of spring training. “Same spot, in the back, too,” he said pointing the back of his left shoulder. “It didn’t go away for the whole year. I was trying to fight through it, but it’s not easy to go out there and pitch when something’s bothering you.”

RHP Scott Baker was the Twins’ most effective starter this season, going 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA, but he was limited to 21 starts because of a flexor injury in his right elbow. That’s behind him now, he said, and he anticipates a full offseason. “Right now, I feel as good as I’ve felt all season,” Baker said at season’s end. “That’s a nice feeling, to not have to worry about rehabilitation; I can just go into the offseason like I normally would.” Baker didn’t start a game after Aug. 8, but he was nearly perfect in two relief appearances in the last week, giving up one hit, striking out three and walking none in three innings.

RHP Matt Capps, who will be a free agent this winter, was terrific in 2009 (career-high 42 saves) but fell on hard times this season, going 4-7 with a 4.25 ERA, 15 saves and nine blown saves. He likely is headed elsewhere.

RHP Kevin Slowey, who angered the team when he declined to pitch out of the bullpen, went 0-8 in eight late starts. He is arbitration-eligible, and he could be non-tendered.