It is only the second week of Spring Training games for the Washington Nationals, but the injury news continues to pile up. After Jayson Werth’s shoulder surgery in February and the oblique injury for Yunel Escobar, the Nats got the news on Monday that center fielder Denard Span had right core muscle surgery on Monday morning in Philadelphia. According to William Ladson of MLB.com, this is an injury that Span started to feel several weeks after the 31-year old had offseason surgery on his sports hernia:
"Denard Span started having problems with his core 6 or 7 weeks after having sports hernia surgery. ….. #Nats #MLB #Nationals"
— William Ladson (@washingnats) March 9, 2015
Span had only played in one game this Spring Training, which was the opener against the New York Mets, where he went 0-for-2. He is expected to miss four to six weeks before starting baseball activities, which means he will likely not play Opening Day against the New York Mets on April 6.
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The outfielder who has been with the Nationals since 2013 is in the final year of a six-year, $25 million contract. With Span’s absence, Washington will miss a key player in their lineup at the leadoff spot. Last season, he hit .302 with five home runs, 37 RBI’s, and stole 31 bases. The other key stat regarding Span is his ability to get on base.
He had a .355 on-base percentage last season, but what was more impressive was his .403 .OBP in the second half of the season, which was top ten among all Major League outfielders.
With Span out, the player that will be expected to play in center field is Michael Taylor. The Nationals top outfield prospect had a great game Sunday in his first game in the lineup this spring. He went 2-for-3 with a single and a leadoff home run on the first pitch of the game vs. the Yankees. In fact, general manager Mike Rizzo has already told Taylor he is the player that will get the start:
Washington also still has to be concerned about whether or not Jayson Werth will be back in the lineup. If Werth can’t go, that spot in left field would likely go to Nate McLouth (who is coming back from labrum surgery) or Tyler Moore, who is off to a great start in the first few games he has played this spring (6-for-8, one home run, six RBI’s). Another name to keep an eye on is Tony Gwynn Jr., who is in camp on a minor league deal.
With injuries like this, it’s better for a team to have them now rather than late in the season. Nevertheless, this is not something that Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams wanted to happen just four games into Spring Training.