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“By no means am I comparing him to like a Kirby Puckett as a player yet, but that smile: He’s got that smile when he comes in, and he’s happy to be here,” Gardenhire said.

That’s been apparent in most of the replacements, lately.

“They were thrown in the fire, we weren’t winning, and I think they were getting some of the blame,” said Denard Span, one of five regulars currently on the disabled list. “I think now they’re just relaxed and realizing that this is the same game it was in A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A. So just come up here and get to work. They’re rallying with each other.”