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Span looking to carry over strong second half

Veteran outfielder was tentative early in 2016 after injury-filled '15
Special to MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Denard Span's name was atop the lineup card for Friday's Cactus League game against the Indians, playing center field and leading off. And unlike last spring, the 33-year-old veteran feels he's at the top of his game as well.

"I'm excited about the upcoming season," Span said before Friday's game. "I had a nice offseason. I didn't have to rehab any surgeries. I feel good."

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Denard Span's name was atop the lineup card for Friday's Cactus League game against the Indians, playing center field and leading off. And unlike last spring, the 33-year-old veteran feels he's at the top of his game as well.

"I'm excited about the upcoming season," Span said before Friday's game. "I had a nice offseason. I didn't have to rehab any surgeries. I feel good."

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That's a nice change compared to the 2016 season, when he was trying to bounce back from a rough 2015 that included three stints on the disabled list as he battled hip, back, and core muscle injuries. He played a career-low 61 games in '15 for the Nationals, and despite starting the season with a clean bill of health for 2016, there was little normal about his first Spring Training with the Giants.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Span on second year with Giants

"Last year, I felt like I was behind the eight-ball," Span said. "I was able to be out there and do all the drills and everything, but I didn't feel like myself. This Spring Training I feel like I'm at the same speed as everybody else. I'm just trying to find my timing right now at the plate, but other than that, I feel really well."

Heading into Friday's game, Span's timing had been elusive -- he was 1-for-14 (.071) through his first six games, with a single and a pair of walks -- which isn't alarming for early March. Perhaps more important, he had logged 34 innings in center, which is in the upper tier of spring innings among the Giants.

So when did he start feeling like himself again?

"[It took] about half the season," Span said. "I started to trust my hip and trust my body a little more. It was more mental, as well as the physical."

The numbers support Span's assertion; after hitting .248 (79-for-318) before the All-Star break, he finished strong, hitting .287 (73-for-254) after the break and .356 in his final 45 at-bats of the season. On top of everything, he hit double-digit home runs (11) for the first time in his professional career.

Video: SF@SD: Span drives a two-run homer to right field

"The only thing I'm trying to do is go up there and have good at-bats and put good swings on the ball," Span said. "I'm never up there trying to hit a home run. A home run is just something that happens, especially for a guy like myself."

Part of getting fully back to his game is getting his running game back to its previous level. Span stole 20 or more bases in four of his last seven seasons.

"I just want to do everything that my game entails," Span said. "I want to try and be more aggressive this year on the bases. I want to bunt a little bit more than I did in the past. All those things. It's the same recipe every year, to be honest."

If Denard can recreate the recipe he was cooking with in the second half of '16, the Giants will be well-served.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

San Francisco Giants, Denard Span