Nationals center fielder Denard Span has been playing through a back injury for the past month, missing games on and off while actually performing very well. Recently the pain became to much to play through and now he’s been placed on the disabled list with what the team is calling “back tightness.”
No one seems quite sure what the exact problem is and Span sought further details from a back specialist, with manager Matt Williams calling the situation “perplexing” earlier this week.
Span has hit .304 with five homers and a .798 OPS in 59 games for his best production since 2009, but now he joins left fielder Jayson Werth, third baseman Anthony Rendon, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, and right-hander Stephen Strasburg on a crowded, star-stuffed Nationals disabled list.
Nationals center fielder Denard Span sat out Tuesday’s game with a back injury and afterward admitted that he’s “tried to play through it for the last month.”
Span first had back spasms on June 7 and Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com notes that Tuesday was the eighth time he’s had to either sit out a game or leave a game early since then, so the Nationals may decide he needs a disabled list stint.
It’s a tough decision, because when healthy enough to be in the lineup Span has hit .329 with 13 walks, eight steals, and a .430 on-base percentage during the past month to remain a huge key atop the Nationals’ lineup. And because the outfield is already missing injured left fielder Jayson Werth the Nationals would be patching together the other two spots alongside right fielder Bryce Harper.
Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth, who’s been out with a fractured wrist since being hit by pitch on May 15, was cleared to swing a fungo bat over the weekend.
That’s a very small step in the road back to Washington, but Nationals manager Matt Williams told Jacob Feldman of the Washington Post that Werth “is well on the road to recovery” and should be able to swing a regular bat very soon.
Feldman reports that Werth remains on track to return at some point in August, although there are still plenty of hurdles to clear before that happens.
Michael Taylor has taken over as the Nationals’ primary left fielder in Werth’s absence, but the 24-year-old rookie is hitting just .248 with six homers and a .684 OPS in 67 games.
Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon, who missed the first two months of the season with knee and oblique injuries, is headed back to the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps muscle.
Rendon played 18 games between the DL stints, hitting .290 with zero homers and a .737 OPS while splitting time between second base and third base defensively. Last season he played 157 of 162 games, leading the league in runs scored and finishing fifth in the MVP balloting.
He joins left fielder Jayson Werth, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, and backup outfielders Nate McLouth and Reed Johnson on the Nationals’ disabled list, forcing manager Matt Williams to put together a patchwork lineup that will once again likely include plenty of playing time for Danny Espinosa.
Here is the Nationals’ starting lineup for Sunday’s series finale against the Brewers …
Harper got hit on the left knee by a pitch Saturday. He’ll ultimately be fine, but there is some swelling. Also absent for the Nats is catcher Wilson Ramos, who’s getting a day of maintenance. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth are both on the disabled list. It’s a starting nine with a spring training feel.