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Span’s season is over, and maybe his Nats career as well

Aug 29, 2015, 5:51 PM EST

Just 72 hours before he was set to undergo season-ending surgery on his left hip, Denard Span stood at his locker in the Nationals clubhouse to address the media, all but resigned to the fact his career in Washington is almost certain to be over.

Just four days earlier he spoke to reporters in the exact same spot having just returned off the disabled list. He was ready for the homestretch of the season, positive the Nats could still make something of what was drawing close to being a lost year. He was optimistic that his body could hold up, that he could play through pain and give it one more go with the team that traded for him before the 2013 season.

But those hopes were dashed when the pain became unbearable, too much to play through. The moment came where Span had to confer with his mother – his closest confidant – and decide what was best for his career. Span was too hurt to help the Nationals in the capacity he was used to, and he will be a free agent this coming winter. The decision was made: undergo surgery and hope to be ready for 2016 spring training, wherever that may be.

Of course, that was not an easy call. And now Span has a long road back, a four to six month recovery that will have him walking with crutches at first. He will undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn labrum. The procedure will involve shaving down his hip bone.

“It’s just frustrating, man, but I’m trying to stay positive as much as possible and just try to trust in God’s plan that I will overcome this. It’s just another chapter in my book. That’s all I can do right now,” he said.

Span said he first felt pain in his hip when he saw a back specialist right after the All-Star break. He received a cortisone shot in his back which helped alleviate the spasms he was suffering through. But the hip just continued to get worse.

Span then saw a hip specialist and received a cortisone shot for that. It took him another six weeks to return to the field, but he knew the hip would continue to be an issue.

Span thought he could play through the pain. He was not 100 percent when he took the field on Tuesday against the San Diego Padres, but played anyway. He didn’t expect the injury to be as painful as it turned out to be.

“I was on the field, but that was difficult. The first game I came in and got the standing ovation, that was the best/worst feeling ever. The fans were happy that I was back, but deep down I knew that I couldn’t give them what I normally can bring to this game and to the ballclub. People were telling me ‘you looked good last game.’ Yeah, I looked good. But I didn’t feel good,” he said.

The back and hip problems came on the heels of two offseason surgeries for Span. He had surgery in December to repair a sports hernia and then another procedure in March to fix one of his core muscles.

“It’s been a terrible eight months for me. Really almost a full year,” he said.

Span returned to the Nationals for the 2015 season after the team picked up his option in October. It was his third season in Washington – where he was born in 1984 – and in all likelihood his last.

If that is the case, Span will leave D.C. with the team record for hits (184) in a single season. That capped off a year in which he batted .302 with 94 runs, 31 steals and finished with NL MVP votes.

Span will now enter free agency and most likely get a multi-year deal with another club. With rookie Michael Taylor in store, the Nationals have the luxury of moving on from Span. There is always the possibility he could be back, but Span has come to grips with the fact his career in D.C. is probably over.

“I didn’t think about it until just reading some people’s comments on Twitter. That Wednesday night I didn’t think that it was going to be my last game. I didn’t have time to process that because I had so much other stuff going on. But the last couple of days it has been entering my mind, just seeing everybody’s well wishes and seeing people on Twitter appreciating me for what I brought to this organization on and off the field,” he said.

“It has made me sad because I’ve enjoyed my three years here. I feel like coming here really resurrected my career. Coming from Minnesota, this trade was probably the best thing for me at the time. I’ve learned a lot here from the coaching staff and my teammates. It’s just been a good time here.”

Span is unsure of where he will spend most of his time the rest of this year as he recovers. He did say, however, that he plans to make at least a few appearances at Nats Park before the season is over.

“I haven’t decided. I’m sure I’ll stick my head in here. I’ve got to come back and try to get my things together. I don’t know how I’ll be moving with the crutches and stuff. But I’m sure that you’ll be seeing me again before I get out of town. I’ll say my farewell to everybody. I’m not going to be one of those guys that disappears. I want to make sure I shake everybody’s hand and say goodbye, because this might be the last time.”

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 29, 2015 at 5:58 PM

    I don’t think there’s any ‘maybe’ about it. Good luck to Mr. Span with his surgery, his recovery, his free agency, and his return to baseball next season, wherever he ends up.

  2. 3on2out - Aug 29, 2015 at 6:19 PM

    My wife has only one t-shirt with a Nats player’s name in her extensive Nats gear collection. That name? SPAN.

    Whenever he made one of his patented gliding catches and made a tough play look easy she liked to say: DEE-NIED!

    A favorite of ours and apparently a favorite in the clubhouse. He will be missed.

  3. natsfan1a - Aug 29, 2015 at 6:45 PM

    Really enjoyed having Denard with us, and wish him full recovery and good health in the future, wherever he might end up.

    • NatsNut - Aug 30, 2015 at 7:06 AM

      +1
      =)

  4. NatsLady - Aug 29, 2015 at 6:47 PM

    So sad! I know as an MLB player he’s made a bunch of money, but that doesn’t make up for the disappointment and frustration. Glad to hear he will come back and shake a few hands. We have happy memories of SPANNING, many, many of them! And great clutch hits–many of those too. I hope he gets his health back and catches on with a good team (not the O’s), and plays for a few more years and then gets a job coaching with the Twins. A Good Man.

  5. Joe Seamhead - Aug 29, 2015 at 6:52 PM

    My saddest day as a Nats fan.

  6. knoxvillenat - Aug 29, 2015 at 8:27 PM

    A terrific ball player and a class act. I wish him good health and nothing but success in his future.

  7. robertrobert104 - Aug 29, 2015 at 8:28 PM

    Really sad indeed, we already missing him, so imagine next year. And we will have also to say goodbye to Desmond, Zimmermann, Fister and probably some others, like Thornton, Janssen. This 2015 season will be remembered as the one where our heroe fail, left and give a spot for our future…

  8. natsguy - Aug 29, 2015 at 9:27 PM

    I know some here didn’t like him, buy I always thought he was a class act. Also smooth as glass on the field.

  9. therealjohnc - Aug 29, 2015 at 10:18 PM

    Will always be a big fan of D-Span. Conducts himself well on and off the field.

    As soon as I heard “hip soreness” I turned to my partner and said “torn labrum.” I had a combination herniated disc/torn labrum/FAI (femoral-acetabular impingement) four years ago. It wasn’t fun, but the surgery and rehab did solve the problem. Here’s hoping that it does for D-Span as well.

    I do expect the Nats to offer Span a QO, and I expect him to decline. I think there’s some chance that the Nats sign him to a deal of about three years or so. Not likely, but a small chance. Not sure which result I’m hoping for, to be honest.

    • Section 222 - Aug 29, 2015 at 10:53 PM

      i really liked what Span brought to the Nats — solid defense, and a great top of the order bat. More power than we expected. I’m very sad he’s done for the year.

      But there’s no way they make him a Q.O., and if they do he’d take it in a heatbeat. $15.something for a year returning from major surgery that leaves a big question mark over his future? Heck yes he’d take that. But the Nats won’t offer it to him. Maybe they offer him a one year deal for something less than that, but I doubt it with Taylor ready to step in.

  10. alexva6 - Aug 29, 2015 at 10:37 PM

    Turner projects to be the leadoff hitter and Taylor projects to be the CF. Together at a fraction of the cost of Span.

    While my memories of Span will be the flawless CF he played, I also remember his first 1/2 season with the club where he was the target of a lot of fan unrest.

    • Section 222 - Aug 29, 2015 at 10:54 PM

      I remember William O. Douglas Loeffler’s weird obsession with and hatred for Span. One of the more bizarre episodes in the annals of NI. Span proved him wrong and gave us a lot of great baseball.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 30, 2015 at 2:48 AM

        Between WODL and peric the Span dissing was pretty bad. Also some baseball ignorant statements made.

      • unkyd59 - Aug 30, 2015 at 10:56 AM

        Ah yes, The Morning DJ… I’d forgotten all about him….

  11. Drew - Aug 29, 2015 at 10:45 PM

    Best of luck to Denard.
    It was an excellent value trade for the Nats and Span is a class act.

  12. drazthegr8 - Aug 29, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    I think he’s the most likely guy to stick around another year or two of our FAs. A QO offer and acceptance would make more sense for Span and the Nats than just about any other case I’ve seen. I’d love to see Span as the starting LF next year, Harper in CF, and Taylor in RF, with Werth as the 4th OF and backup 1B getting 4-5 starts/week.

    • jfmii - Sep 1, 2015 at 2:28 PM

      For me, a no-brainer, Taylor would get the nod over Harper to be in Center every time.

  13. Nats Fan Zee - Aug 29, 2015 at 11:17 PM

    God bless you Denard and may he watch over you and your family. Wishing you the best.

  14. natslive - Aug 30, 2015 at 12:04 AM

    Good Luck and Health to Denard wherever he ends up. Really enjoyed watching him here and a real class act.

  15. umpiressuk - Aug 30, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    Everytime I look at my Denard Span bobblehead, I will have good memories. Good luck and well wishes for you.

  16. Muddy Ruel - Aug 30, 2015 at 9:25 AM

    The Nats have spent large $$$ in the past. Enough to leave one’s mouth agape. But offering Span $15M or so for a year”s service after all his 2014-5 health issues, expecting a comp pick ’cause he’ll turn it down? Can’t see it happening. My guess is that he’d be the first to take such an offer. His best $$ year was 2015 @ $9M. But I couldn’t see $210M for 7 years of Scherzer, either.

  17. rgsie - Aug 30, 2015 at 9:38 AM

    The Nats are going to miss this guy…The catches he made in centerfield were breathtaking.

    • unkyd59 - Aug 30, 2015 at 11:01 AM

      He reminded me of how my Pop would describe Joltin’ Joe; ran exactly as fast as needed… Made it look easy. Happy Trails, Denard!

  18. jfmii - Sep 1, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    I will miss him. In my mind, he was the heart and soul of the 2014 Nationals. However, I would not make a qualifying offer. Having surgery that will take up the entire off-season to recuperate means he will be at the same place this coming spring training as he was last. He will not be ready to go on April 1. There will be pressure to play. There will be higher risks for other injuries. Etc. Etc.

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