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Span likely done for season after setback

Aug 27, 2015, 11:49 PM EST

AP

Denard Span’s return from the disabled list earlier this week was as big an emotional boost as the Nationals had experienced in quite some time. Which only made the center fielder’s return to the DL late Thursday night an even tougher punch to the gut.

Span is out again, this time with inflammation in his left hip suffered as he attempted to return from a lower back injury that sidelined him the previous seven weeks. The timing of this latest setback, at this stage of a season that has included a never-ending string of injuries that all appear to have been connected, makes it unlikely Span returns to play in 2015.

“It’s unclear right now,” manager Matt Williams said during a somber news conference despite his team’s 4-2 win over the Padres. “I’d imagine it’s going to be very tough for him to get back.”

The revelation of Span’s setback came on a night the Nationals lost two other key players to injury, with Yunel Escobar forced to leave the game after getting hit in the right hand with a pitch and Michael Taylor banging his right knee against the center field wall in a frightening collision that left the rookie dazed and hobbled.

Both players were diagnosed with contusions, both considered day-to-day, according to Williams. But Taylor’s status will loom large now, with the Nationals at best needing to find themselves another center fielder for a couple of days, if not more.

With Span unavailable to replace Taylor following the seventh-inning collision, the Nationals had no choice but to put together a makeshift defensive lineup: Bryce Harper in center field, Jayson Werth in right field, Danny Espinosa in left field, Trea Turner at second base.

Williams said the club will make a corresponding move before Friday night’s series opener against the Marlins. Matt den Dekker, a likely September call-up anyway, would be the simplest choice for a promotion from Class AAA Syracuse, unless general manager Mike Rizzo has something else up his sleeve.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it, but it is what it is,” said Williams, who has been able to fill out a lineup card with all eight regulars healthy only twice this season. “Mikey’s playing hard. Yunel’s playing hard. Denard, when he was able to, has played hard. There’s not much you can do about it, other than do what I tell you guys everyday: We’ll forget about this one and prepare for tomorrow.”

Span’s entire season has been derailed by injuries, beginning with a sports hernia that required surgery in December. He needed another surgery to repair an abdominal tear suffered while trying to come back from the initial injury in spring training, forcing him to open the season on the DL. Then came the lingering back injury, a byproduct of the surgeries, which Span tried to play through for more then a month before he finally was placed back on the DL in July.

After a lengthy rehab process, Span finally believed he was healthy enough to rejoin the club this week, activated on Tuesday. He wound up playing in two games, going 2-for-9 with two doubles and a walk and showing no outward signs of trouble.

During Wednesday night’s game, though, the 31-year-old felt pain in his hip, directly related to all the other injuries. He was out of the lineup Thursday, then wasn’t available to come off the bench when Taylor got hurt in the seventh inning.

Span’s importance to the Nationals can’t be overstated: The club is 36-25 this season when he plays, 28-37 when he doesn’t.

Before making his return Tuesday, Span admitted the uncertainty he faced in coming back from an injury that was never really going to completely disappear in-season.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said. “I’m just going to go for it. It’s time to go. I’ve worked hard. It’s definitely been a lot of guts and glory for me this year. I’ve had to dig deep this last month-and-a-half. I want to give D.C. everything I got and this organization and this fan base everything that I have. One thing they won’t be able to say after this is that ‘Denard Span isn’t tough.’ I’ve been through a lot, but I’m happy to be here today.”

Span, one of several prominent players on the Nationals roster who is due to become a free agent at season’s end, now faces another rehab period, the Washington portion of his career perhaps over in crushing fashion.

“Only he knows what he’s going through,” first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “Not the doctor. Not us. Not anyone. It’s frustrating for him. It’s frustrating for everyone, because he obviously makes our team way better. But at the same time, he’s played 150-some games every year. You’d think he would know what’s going on with his body. It’s not like he’s not a tough guy. You’ve got to be tough to play 140-150 games every year like he has.”

Few players in the Nationals’ clubhouse are as popular as Span, which made this development particularly tough for many to swallow. Injuries have been one of the defining characteristics of this season, though, which for all its travails still includes 36 more games, a 6 1/2-game deficit to the Mets still standing in their way.

“It’s never easy,” Werth said. “You go through the season, it’s a lot of ups and downs. You run into all kinds of different things. But regardless, you gotta find a way to win, gotta find a way to overcome it. We’re in it right now. I think everybody in here believes we can do it. We haven’t lost hope to any degree. … Got another game coming tomorrow, another series. We gotta find a way to win that series. Nobody said it was gonna be easy.”

  1. Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:58 PM

    #()@< You, Jobu. We do this ourselves.

    • natsfan1a - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:17 AM

      Yeah, what he said.

  2. stoatva - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:59 PM

    So begins the Cutter Dykstra era.

    • Guapo - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:39 AM

      More importantly the Jaime Lynn Sigler era at Nats Park!

  3. zmunchkin - Aug 27, 2015 at 11:59 PM

    Turner to second, not first.

    • Section 222 - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:42 PM

      Now that’s funny!

      • Section 222 - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:44 PM

        My reply was meant for the Cutter Dykstra comment. Sorry.

  4. quixote2030 - Aug 28, 2015 at 12:19 AM

    Rizzo should acquire Austin Jackson. He should come pretty cheap, and he’s probably better than any of our other options.

    • Section 222 - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:41 PM

      I apologize quix. I clicked the report button by accident. Grrrr.

      • Mark Zuckerman - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:45 PM

        You’ll be happy to know, Sec 222, that one accidental click of the report button won’t cause the comments to get out of whack anymore. Finally managed to figure out a way to fix that glitch!

  5. sunshinebobby - Aug 28, 2015 at 12:31 AM

    Nice player, terrific defensive player, perfect gentlemen = career over in D.C.

    • veejh - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:25 AM

      Probably so. We need to move on from these injury plagued players. I know it’s hard, but it’s time. Span was a good one while he lasted.

      • JayB - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:36 AM

        exactly….stop looking for a discounted deal Rizzo….it is coming back to bit you….pay market price for players who have a track record of being healthy…..Nat McLouth, Jason W, Span, and several other Rizzo signings all have a long history of injuries and he likes that because they come cheaper…..but this is the cost year after year…they do not play….

      • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:51 AM

        No franchise in baseball won more games than the Nationals from 2012-2014. We’re “baseball’s biggest disappointment” this year and we’re gonna end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 85 wins. I think Rizzo’s strategy has worked out just fine.

        BTW here’s the players we might have if we’d shied away from some of the injury-prone guys that have been added in the last four years:

        Denard Span: Alex Meyer is currently languishing in AAA for the Twins at age 25

        Anthony Rendon: the player chosen just after him was Archie Bradley (5.80 ERA for Diamondbacks). The next college bat taken after him was Cory Spangenberg.

        Lucas Giolito: The player taken after him was DJ Davis, who has a .729 OPS in A ball this year. The next pitcher was Michael Wacha, a great pitcher but has also struggled with injuries

        Would you rather have those guys than the “injury prone” guys we have in the organization?

      • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:10 AM

        Also, saying “we need to move on from injury plagued players” is like saying “we need to add another one of these .300 average 40 HR bats to the lineup.” Sounds great in theory but basically impossible to do in practice. Pretty much every player in the league has had injury problems, and often times when teams think they’ve added one of those rare iron man types (the Rangers with Prince Fielder, the Angels with Albert Pujols) they end up dealing with devastating injuries anyway.

      • hokiepokster92 - Aug 28, 2015 at 10:47 AM

        Injuries are unpredictable. Yes, some guys may be more prone to it than others but often it’s a result of bad luck. Getting hit by a pitch is one of those things you can’t control. Running into some overweight fan in the stands who doesn’t have the presence to move or brace you as you track down a foul ball is out of your control.

        Agreed with the above sentiments regarding Span. He was a great National. I wish him well.

      • Section 222 - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:50 PM

        Just reading this thread. Bring it bb. Good stuff.

        That said, fortunately, Rizzo is cold blooded when it comes to free agent signings. He’s not going to let affection or emotion guide whether he tries to sign Span, just like he didn’t with ALR. I too believe that Span roamed CF in Nats Park for the last time on Wednesday.

  6. NatsLady - Aug 28, 2015 at 1:31 AM

    OK, I’m officially discouraged.

    And sad.

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:08 AM

      +1.

    • Nats Fan Zee - Aug 28, 2015 at 10:47 AM

      Yes … I really feel bad for our guys, banged up and all. They did the best the could with what they had. Having said that, it’s very possible the Mets could roll into town 20 over .500 … i wonder what the Vegas odds of that were back in April?

      Anyway, I’ll be there Saturday night and again on Labor day to see whatever if left of this team.

  7. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:20 AM

    Yet another blow during this 2015 season…

  8. veejh - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:24 AM

    The cherry on top.

    • adcwonk - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:31 AM

      … Or, on bottom 😦

  9. jfmii - Aug 28, 2015 at 7:36 AM

    Star-crossed season. I am sad, also

  10. snopes1 - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    I like to think positively. We’re still at the point in the season where the Nats still control their own fate and don’t need any help from anyone else, at least theoretically.

    Let’s assume the Mets continue their torrid ways and win everyone of their remaining 35 games — except the 6 games against the Nats, in which they get swept by the Nats. Their going 29-6 the rest of the way would take them from their current 71-56 record to 100-62.

    If the Nats win all of their remaining 36 games, they would go from their current 64-62 record to a 100-62 record — and a tie with the Mets.

    Then, the Nats win the one-game playoff over the Mets and they’ve repeated as NL East championships.

    So, as of today at least, the Nats are still masters of their own fate.

  11. JayB - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    People….this is not a star crossed season, it was always a higher possibility due to the price discounting Rizzo likes to shop for and his refusal to make moves when needed……Rizzo has to learn not to be tempted by a cheaper price for players in the draft or in trade or free agency because they are injured, or have a history of injury….Werth has had wrist problems for years. Their is not such thing as bad luck over this large sample size…things happen like this because of increased probabilities. Nats have several years of data that they could have used to predict increased injuries with these players.

    • jfmii - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:56 AM

      Yes, sigh, all Rizzo’s fault.

    • jfmii - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:58 AM

      I sure wish you were the GM, JayB

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:01 AM

      Good morning, JayB. You really are amazing. Werth’s wrist injury this year was unrelated to his previous ones. He was hit by a fastball. If Cal Ripken had been hit by that pitch on his wrist during his streak the streak would have ended. Span’s previous injuries were all concussion related. Guess what, JayB? People with a brain would know that neither a groin, back, or hip injury has any relevance to a concussion.And how can you claim that Werth, or McLouth, who was signed to be a 4th outfielder, were discount players? I guess by your way of thinking that Rizzo should have know that MAT would hurt his knee, too.And Rizzo should’ve known that Rendon would hurt himself in a way that was totally unrelated to his college injury, and shouldn’t have drafted him either.

      • jd - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:21 AM

        Joe,

        You are wasting your breath. The fact that our payroll is $163 mil should be enough to put to bed any ‘cheap’ conversation but since JayB won’t be persuaded to that why should we bother reacting to his crap? In one of his memorable posts he claimed that the Nats refused to do an enhanced MRI on a player to save money. Imagine the logic, let’s pay Scherzer $210 mil but hey a procedure that costs say $10,000 that’s too much.

        The sheer stupidity in the logic is mind boggling.

      • senators69 - Aug 28, 2015 at 10:44 AM

        +++1

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:13 AM

      So you begin your post complaining about the “price discounting” and “cheaper players” that Rizzo likes to shop for and then you cite … Jayson Werth!

      Can you keep a straight face while typing that? I can’t while reading it.

      • jd - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:23 AM

        He does trip over his own ‘logic’ doesn’t he?

    • water47 - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:56 AM

      Actually, the Werth signing was not a discount deal vs other players. The other OF option at that time was Crawford or Werth. The stats seem to learn towards Werth since signing their FA deal.

    • akiterp - Aug 28, 2015 at 11:26 AM

      I logged in with only the intent of finding the one knucklehead that would blame Rizzo on last night’s injuries and use it as an excuse to go on some broken-record clueless rant…. congratulations

  12. nats106 - Aug 28, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    Denard, thanks for the past several years-while healthy, you’re one of the best so get better soon.

    Best of luck to you next year-with either the Nationals or some other team. Please, just don’t sign with the Braves.

    • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:11 AM

      +1.

      I hope we see Denard back on a one year deal, but if not it’s been a pleasure having him on the Nats the last three years. A great guy and a lot of fun to watch.

      • jd - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:22 AM

        I agree 100%. I make him a QO and if he accepts everyone wins. With his back issues he just may have a hard time getting a 3 – 4 year deal he was sure to get if healthy.

      • senators69 - Aug 28, 2015 at 10:45 AM

        Absolutely!

  13. natfan33 - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    If you had to choose a song title to represent this year, what would it be? For me: Slip, Sliding Away

    • coop202 - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:43 AM

      Eh the mets played sub 500 baseball for most of the season save two win streaks. I’m not fully discouraged yet

    • therealjohnc - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:58 AM

      My nomination for the song for the season is “You Know It Don’t Come Easy.”

      But the Nats are still in the race. Another game tonight – just win, guys.

  14. coop202 - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    Man… It’s interesting that the only free agent off the Nats roster that will get their full value in FA is zimm… Foster, probably (tho who knows with SS), now Span. All players I respect for their work ethic just having off seasons. For their sake and the Nats I wish they were all getting huge paydays

    • coop202 - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:30 AM

      *Fister and autocorrect removed Desi

  15. jfmii - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    I have a sinking feeling that the Nationals will be all but mathematically eliminated by the time they get to the Mets series 10 games from now.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 28, 2015 at 10:00 AM

      Why do people prospectively mourn? None of us know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but there’s a ballgame tonight that means something. Go Nats.

      • abqnatsfan - Aug 28, 2015 at 11:05 AM

        People make these decisions individually, at their own time. Few make the decision at the same time and many complain about folks who make decisions at any time other than the very same day they do.

        Some gave up months ago and posted to it when they saw what they felt was poor play and complacency, similar to 2013.

        Some gave up a few weeks ago when historical precedent indicated that the Nats chance to make the playoffs had dropped fro ~85% two months ago to ~15% a week or more ago.

        Some, in this thread, say they age giving up most hope today.

        Some folks today say they won’t give up until the math says making the playoffs is impossible.

        Some say they will just watch the games to the end and enjoy baseball.

        Many seem to indicate they look down on those who are in any posture other than their own (optimistic or pessimistic).

        Maybe we can each have our own choice and let others have theirs.

      • natsfan1a - Aug 28, 2015 at 11:53 AM

        Well said, abq @ 11:05.

      • therealjohnc - Aug 28, 2015 at 12:26 PM

        I’m not critiquing the decision – as you say, to each their own. It was an honest question, because pre-emptive sadness doesn’t make much sense to me, particularly about something as gloriously meaningless as professional sports. It will be winter soon enough either way.

      • jfmii - Aug 28, 2015 at 12:29 PM

        I do hope I am wrong

    • Sam - Aug 28, 2015 at 12:47 PM

      Isn’t the magic number 35? Pretty sure it would be impossible for us to be eliminated in that time.

      • nats106 - Aug 28, 2015 at 12:51 PM

        Magic number for the Mets is 30, but yes, it would be impossible to be eliminated in 9 days.

  16. philipd763 - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    I find Tom Boswell’s statement about MW and Rizzo in todays WP very troubling and depressing. Boswell states: “Get used to Williams, a constant student of the game, learning on the job. Rizzo is rock solid with the Lerners; Williams is rock solid with Rizzo. You can debate but the Nats likely won’t.” I ask, what has MW learned? He keeps make the same dumb decisions night after night. If what Boswell says is true, and I suspect it is, then Rizzo should go too because I think we have two dummies running the franchise.

  17. npb99 - Aug 28, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    Just venting here, but the Mets pulled off two comebacks of being down by 5 runs and going on to win just this week. WTF!
    But keep winning Nats, the Mets bubble has got to burst at some point.

    • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2015 at 10:34 AM

      Here’s a Nats/Mets fun fact: In this last three game set alone the Nats beat two pitchers better than any starting pitcher the Mets have defeated since we were tied with them for the division lead on August 2. If you don’t believe me take a look:

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYM/2015-schedule-scores.shtml

      They’ve played very well and we’ve had some disappointing results, most notable the 3-4 homestand against the DBacks and Rockies. But there’s also quite a bit of luck built into their runaway August.

      • jd - Aug 28, 2015 at 10:50 AM

        You know what else is depressing?

        I looked at the Mets/Red Sox pitching matchups and on paper they are all huge mismatches in favor of the Mets.

        I think what Alderson accomplished at the trade deadline was that he plugged the giant holes in his lineup. He no longer has players like Campbell, Bayberry etc playing every day and even marginal hitters like Tavares are now playing on a platoon basis only. Uribe, Johnson etc. aren’t stars but they are professional hitters and with their strong pitching, weak schedule and some good old fashioned momentum they have been able to string together a kind of streak that can take you to a championship at the expense of a team beset by brutal injuries, ridiculously unlucky matchups and sub standard in game managing.

        Also, I think D’Arnaud is a lot better than we thought if he can stay healthy and Conforto looks like he may be the real deal.

        Again, I’ll keep the faith until the bitter end and hope for a reversal of fortune in the next days.

      • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2015 at 11:09 AM

        True, but we’re set up even better than the Mets as far as matchups go this weekend. The Red Sox aren’t very good but they’re definitely better than the Marlins without Stanton and possibly without Yelich. And at least they’ll send elite prospect Henry Owens to the mound tonight- we get our “big three” this weekend without having to face a quality starter.

        I’m hoping for a Nats sweep and the Red Sox to at least steal one, possibly tonight.

      • therealjohnc - Aug 28, 2015 at 12:34 PM

        When you get any kind of “perfect storm” like the Nats have been fighting (and the Mets have been riding) the past month or so then it always seems to go this way. The Nats play the Dodgers six times, get Kershaw and Greinke (and in the middle of hot streaks for both) in four of those six games. The Mets play the Pirates in a four game series, they don’t face Gerrit Cole at all (they lost all four games anyway). The Mets are about to play the Marlins, and Jose Fernandez goes on the DL. It seems like every series when I look at the matchups I’m saying to myself “oh, of course the Mets miss [x]” But that happens; half the time when a team has one of those magic seasons they have also been weirdly lucky.

        Weird baseball fact: the Mets have gone 14-0 against the Phillies, Rockies and Marlins this month. But the Mets are 0-13 against the Cubs and Pirates. Even against the Nationals when the Nationals were beat up and the Mets lined up their best starters against the Nationals and the Nationals did not do the same, the Mets only went 2-4 in those games (everyone remembers the sweep in NY, almost no one remembers the Nats took 2 of 3 in DC the week before).

        All of which make it still really hard to get a read on how good the Mets actually are.

  18. akiterp - Aug 28, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    The METs soft schedule might bite them in the butt …. a little over confidence, below average competition, easier balls to hit, no BP’s, pressure from being on top …. the wheels may falls off this bus. Nats just have to win every series and then see what happens

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