MINNEAPOLIS -- Manager Ron Gardenhire sees the Twins' 2013 schedule -- released on Wednesday -- as a mixed bag.
The first portions of the schedule that caught the skipper's attention were the Twins' two 20-day, 20-game stretches. Minnesota will play 20 straight games -- 12 on the road -- immediately prior to the All-Star break, in addition to another 20 straight to close the season.
"Those are stretches that you don't like to see during the course of the year -- 20 games in a row -- and we've got two of them," Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire was also disappointed to see that the Twins will play just four games against Interleague rival Milwaukee as opposed to six. Minnesota will visit the Brewers for two games (May 27-28) before hosting them for two more (May 29-30).
"That's crazy. You expect to see three and three with your natural rival," Gardenhire said. "That's a party when we go to Milwaukee. It really is an event for Twins fans. They go there like they go to Kansas City. So that's kind of disappointing."
But Gardenhire couldn't take any issue with another aspect of the schedule -- opening at home. The Twins start their season at home for the first time since Target Field opened in 2010 with an April 1 tilt against the Tigers.
"Starting at home is great," Gardenhire said. "If the weather says it's OK, then we'll say OK."
Span makes positive impact in return from DL
MINNEAPOLIS -- Outfielder Denard Span returned to the Twins' lineup on Wednesday night for the first time since Aug. 27, though he played like he hadn't missed a game.
Span went 3-for-5 while starting in center field and leading off in a 10-5 loss to the Royals -- the same day he was activated from the 15-day disabled list. Span was on the DL -- retroactive to Aug. 28 -- with a sprained sternoclavicular joint in his right shoulder.
"He swung the bat -- he was on the ball pretty good," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's hard to do when you haven't had any swings off live pitches in a couple of weeks, and he steps right in there and gets it done. We need him at the top [of the order] and we always know that, and he did a nice job."
Span, who tripled in his first at-bat to lead off the first inning against Royals starter Luke Hochevar, originally sustained the injury while diving for a ball in center field on Aug. 12. He missed nine games, though the club didn't think the injury required a stint on the DL. But the shoulder bothered him too much when he played, forcing him to miss more time.
The injury is one that likely won't fully heal until the offseason.
"That's what they kind of told me," Span said. "It's not going to really heal until I give it a month, month-and-a-half of no activity for it to fully heal. I haven't done that. I've given it some time off. I've done a lot of rehab on it. But it won't feel fully healed until I give it that time."
Span was determined to return this season, though, in order to finish on a positive note. He entered Wednesday's game hitting .286 with a career-high 32 doubles in 108 games.
"I started off strong," he said. "Had a good April, a good May. Just want to finish it the same way. Go home with my head held high knowing that I finished the season off strong."
Mauer not ready to play due to back issues
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins catcher Joe Mauer missed his second straight game on Wednesday night due to back spasms -- which also forced him to be a late scratch from the lineup against Kansas City on Tuesday.
"I walked in [Wednesday] and asked him how he's doing," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He said, 'Not as bad as yesterday, but still not ready to play baseball. All we can do is day to day. I'm sure this little drop in temperature doesn't help things out with a stiff back. But we'll see."
Mauer, a five-time All-Star, said he originally experienced the discomfort when he tried to loosen up in the indoor batting cage prior to batting practice on Tuesday.
"I couldn't even get to the cage -- it [my back] just locked up," Mauer said after Tuesday's 9-1 loss to the Royals. "I'm in a little pain right now but it's calmed down from earlier [on Tuesday], so it's feeling a little bit better."
Mauer's injury calls for ice and muscle relaxers. He played in 35 of the Twins' last 36 games before missing Tuesday's contest, and has played in 131 of 142 of the team's games this season entering Wednesday's contest.
"Those kinds of things can clear up quick," Gardenhire said. "But while they're there, you know you just don't have any movement. You can't catch and you can't swing. We'll see how he goes today. Hopefully get in tomorrow and see if he can play tomorrow."
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.