The Nationals are planning to activate Denard Span off the disabled list in time for Tuesday’s series finale against the Padres, a move that could give the club a full, healthy starting lineup for the first time this season.
The decision to bring Span off the DL isn’t official yet because team officials are still contemplating a corresponding roster move, but a club source said the veteran center fielder made it through his minor-league rehab stint with no issues and is ready to rejoin the big-league lineup.
Span has appeared in only 59 games this season, opening the year on the DL following a pair of surgeries to repair abdominal tears and then spending the last seven weeks sidelined again due to a lingering lower back issue. When on the field, he has been among the club’s most productive players, hitting .304 with a .367 on-base percentage, .798 OPS and 11 stolen bases in 11 attempts.
Perhaps the most-telling stat about Span’s value to the Nationals: They own a 35-24 record when he plays this season but a 27-37 record when he doesn’t.
Span continued to play well throughout June and early July despite the back injury, which acted up on him enough to force him to be scratched from the Nationals’ lineup roughly once or twice a week. He and the team finally decided not to push it any further after he was forced out of a July 6 game early. He was sent to a back specialist in Dallas, who found no evidence of structural damage, but he was placed on the 15-day DL to give himself time to recover.
Span played in six rehab games with high-Class A Potomac, low-Class A Hagerstown and Class AA Harrisburg, going 7-for-17 with a homer, three walks and a stolen base. He played all nine innings in center field Saturday for Harrisburg, then returned to serve as DH on Sunday.
Between injuries to Span, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon, the Nationals have yet to field their entire projected Opening Day lineup once this season. That could change Tuesday night against the Padres if Span is activated as expected and if third baseman Yunel Escobar returns after missing two games with a minor neck injury.