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Hip surgery for Span, but Taylor's knee OK

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Hip surgery for Span, but Taylor's knee OK

Denard Span’s injury plagued season will come to an abrupt conclusion Tuesday when the Nationals leadoff man has surgery to repair the labrum in his left hip, but the club was able to breathe a bit easier Friday when it learned Michael Taylor (Span’s backup in center field) was not seriously injured during a scary-looking collision with the wall the previous night.

Span’s final diagnosis came Friday after he was examined by a specialist, who determined the injured hip required surgery to heal. With only five weeks remaining in the season, the outfielder won’t have enough time to return in 2015.

This will be Span’s third surgery in nine months, all of them related to some extent. He had a sports hernia repaired last winter, then required surgery for another abdominal tear in March when he tried to come back from the initial injury. The 31-year-old made his season debut April 19 but played through back pain on and off until finally going back on the DL in early July.

After seven weeks of rehab, Span returned this week amid much fanfare from a Nationals club that sorely needed his presence atop its lineup and in the field. But after playing in only two games, he was sidelined again, this time with hip pain that manager Matt Williams said had bothered him throughout the entire process.

“This game we play is not conducive to any of those joints, whether it’s your shoulder, your elbow, your hips, your back,” Williams said. “It’s all rotational, and at times it can be damaging. So he’s going to get it fixed and go from there. … He’s had some hip pain. But that type of pain is kind of all connected: hip, back, stomach, abdominal. Those tests were taken and it showed the need to have it repaired.”

When healthy enough to play this season, Span performed remarkably well given his diminished physical state. He wound up hitting .301 with a .365 on-base percentage, .431 slugging percentage and 11 stolen bases in as many tries over 61 games, all the way serving as a calming influence in center field.

A pending free agent at season’s end, Span now faces an uncertain future. The Nationals could decide to make him a qualifying offer after the World Series, which he could accept and return on a 1-year deal worth approximately $15 million. Or he could decline that offer and sign with another club, in which case the Nats would be awarded a compensatory draft pick.

Span seemed to be concerned about the his injury risk throughout the rehab process this summer. Though he felt strong enough to come off the DL earlier this week, he admitted he didn’t know how he would feel once he started playing in big-league games again.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said Tuesday. “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.”

The Nationals will sorely miss Span the rest of the season — their record when he plays is 36-25, but only 28-37 when he doesn’t — but the loss would’ve been even greater had Taylor suffered a major injury during Thursday night’s win over the Padres. The rookie center fielder appeared to be in serious pain after he slammed into the fence trying to catch Melvin Upton Jr.’s deep drive and had to be helped off the field by teammate Jayson Werth and assistant athletic trainer Steve Gober.

Though initially worried he had done significant damage to his right knee, Taylor said Friday he knew he would be OK once he returned to the clubhouse and stayed off his feet for awhile. He said all tests on the knee came back clean and that he felt like he could even come off the bench if needed despite the bad bruise.

“I think the video [looked] worse than it really was,” Taylor said. “I banged my knee pretty good when I went into the wall. But luckily nothing was broken or torn. … I’m very grateful and blessed. It could’ve been a lot worse. I was scared for a moment I tore something in my knee. When I rolled over, it was on fire, pretty bad. I’m happy the way things turned out, I guess.”

The news also was fairly positive on third baseman Yunel Escobar, who left Thursday’s game after getting hit by a pitch in the right hand. X-rays were negative and Escobar was diagnosed only with a bruise, though the hand was still sore and swollen on Friday and he was out of the lineup.

With Span back on the DL and Taylor at least not starting Friday, the Nationals had to cobble together a lineup that wound up featuring infielder Danny Espinosa making his first career start in left field, Bryce Harper making his second start of the season in center field, Werth shifting to right field and Trea Turner making the first start of his career and doing so at second base (which he only began learning how to play last week at Class AAA Syracuse).

“Danny, he’s an athlete, he can handle it,” Williams said. “He showed last night that he’s capable. And it gives him opportunity to get in the lineup and hit from the right side [against Marlins lefty Adam Conley] which is important. It provides us a little more thump in the lineup with Yunel out. It gives Trea an opportunity to get out there and make his first start, as well.”

Espinosa, a career middle infielder, has found himself all over the diamond this season, having now made his professional debuts at third base, first base and left field.

“It’s on a need-to-do basis,” he said. “I have to, because of who’s hurt right now. But it’s giving me an opportunity to play. … I’m taking it as a challenge to try to do something good. Obviously I prefer the infield. I like being. But I’ll try something new and do the best I can.”

Turner has been a shortstop throughout his brief professional career but got a bit of experience at second base last week while still in the minors and has spent time each afternoon working there with Nationals defensive coach Mark Weidemaier.

“It’s hard to recreate game situations,” Turner said. “But I’ve gotten a lot of practice. … I think I’ve gotten a lot better at it since I started practicing. I’ve just got to keep with it and kind of relax a little bit, not think too much.”

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Nationals use time against woeful Marlins to produce first three-game winning streak

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Nationals use time against woeful Marlins to produce first three-game winning streak

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins, 9-6, Sunday to raise their record to 22-31. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Rain, sun, hail and a three-game winning streak showed up at Nationals Park Sunday.

The bad parts -- rain and hail -- put a temporary stall on the proceedings in the fifth inning. Erick Fedde finished his day around the same time. Another five-inning outing for him made him look like a reasonable part of a major-league rotation going forward.

The Nationals scored four runs in the third, four more in the sixth. The earlier four were more notable since they came against Miami left-hander Caleb Smith, one of the better lefties in the National League. Smith entered the game with a 2.38 ERA. His WHIP a mere 0.89. Washington chased him in just three innings.

Handling Smith produced the first three-game winning streak of the season. The Nationals are the last team in MLB to put together such a benign run of success. They also don’t care. The house was on fire when they arrived back to the District on Friday. Miami has served as the get-well (get-better?) card it is expected to be for NL East members throughout the season.

"If you look back, regardless of wins and losses – and we all want to win – the boys fight," manager Davey Martinez said. "They play hard, they’re in every game and now it’s gratifying to see us coming out on top. So, we’ll enjoy this one again and come out again tomorrow, we have another early game and do it again."

Max Scherzer pitches Monday. The Nationals could sweep.

2. Fedde was on the attack from the start. He threw eight pitches for eight strikes in a 1-2-3 first inning. His tempo, mentality and stuff were all on-point.

But, he made it just five innings. Fedde threw 83 pitches, 51 strikes.

Again, Fedde relied mainly on his sinker. He also threw a lot of curveballs.

Trouble was limited. Yan Gomes threw out Miguel Rojas when Rojas tried to move to third with one out in the third. Fedde dealt with seven baserunners total -- three of which were because of walks.

If there was a point to lament on the day, it centers on the three walks (one was intentional after he fell behind against Brian Anderson) in the final three innings.

Otherwise, solid work from Fedde in his second start since being re-inserted into the rotation. He appears to be a more effective pitcher than Jeremy Hellickson. The Nationals need to decide what to do with Hellickson (right shoulder strain) when he feels healthy. They could buy time by sending him on a rehabilitation assignment. That would allow a chance to be sure Fedde is on the track he appears to be. A choice would follow.

"Like I said before, my job here is to make it as tough for them to send me down, whether they want me in the rotation or the pen, I'm happy just to help this team get some wins," Fedde said.

3. James Borque made his major-league debut Sunday. It did not go well.

He and his ambitious mustache entered the game in the top of the ninth. The Nationals led, 9-2.

Borque was called up Saturday. Friends of his drove through the night from the Chicago area to make it to Nationals Park. His parents took a 6 a.m. flight. Patrick Corbin kept Borque in his bullpen seat with a complete game Saturday. The Nationals' expansive Sunday lead gave Borque (pronounced “Burke”) a chance to take the mound.

Borque delivered a four-pitch walk, with the fourth pitch going to the backstop, to the first batter. Fourteen-year veteran Howie Kendrick went over to talk to him.

When Borque reached 2-0 on the next batter, catcher Yan Gomes and pitching coach Paul Menhart went to talk to him.

A 4-6-3 double play delivered the first two outs. A double followed. Garrett Cooper walked. Harold Ramirez picked up an infield single when Brian Dozier could not get a throw off after a sliding stop. Brian Anderson then doubled in three runs.

That was the end for Borque. Four earned runs. Two outs.

"Burkie came into the game, and we’ve got to give him a chance, we’ve got to see what he does, he comes from Double-A," Martinez said. "The fact is, they don’t use a Major League baseball in Double-A, so we told him, ‘Hey, just throw your fastball and try to get it up.’ I’m not making excuses for the kid, but the first time out there and I like his stuff. But now he’s got to locate his fastball and you’ve got to get the ball over the plate."

4. Martinez has done well to manage Kendrick’s playing time throughout the Nationals’ struggles.

The temptation -- particularly when the injured list was populated by starters -- was to play Kendrick daily. His bat was needed, his defense was fine. Ryan Zimmerman went on the disabled list April 28. Matt Adams went on the disabled list May 5. Opportunities abounded.

Since Zimmerman went on the disabled list, Kendrick has appeared in 24 games. He made 16 starts, eight pinch-hit appearances and had four full days off.

Massaging playing time for the 35-year-old Kendrick was an issue when the Nationals started the season (and he was on the injured list because of a hamstring strain after coming off an Achilles tendon tear). Even with a full roster, Washington expected to be cautious with Kendrick.

Once the injuries mounted this season, and Kendrick remained hot at the plate, the easy move would have been to play him each day. Martinez played him often, but also gave him breaks. Not an easy decision. It continues to pay off. Kendrick went 3-for-5 Sunday. He’s hitting .303.

"I had conversations with Howie," Martinez said. "He lets me know when his legs are heavy. Because he's had a lot of hamstring issues and I know that. Like I said, if I can plop him in in a game where he can pinch-hit in a big moment, it means just as much to us as much as getting four at-bats."

5. Trevor Rosenthal update No. 1,896: He was in Washington on Sunday. He returns to Harrisburg on Monday to throw another inning. The Nationals thought Saturday night -- one inning pitched, no earned runs, no hits, a strikeout, 18 pitches, 10 strikes -- was better.

They want Rosenthal to make back-to-back appearances next. After that, they will re-evaluate, yet again.

Rosenthal went on the 10-day injured list April 26. He made his first rehabilitation appearance May 11. That started his 30-day clock. Rosenthal needs to come off that particular rehabilitation assignment and start another because of a new injury -- or come to the majors -- at the end of the 30 days. Rosenthal originally went on the IL because of a viral infection.

Rosenthal’s ERA at Harrisburg is 5.06.

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Patrick Corbin shuts out the Marlins, Nationals win second straight

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Patrick Corbin shuts out the Marlins, Nationals win second straight

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins, 5-0, Saturday to raise their record to 21-31. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Good defense Saturday.

A simplistic thing, yet perversely elusive this season for the Nationals.

Washington committed no errors. It turned three double-plays, allowing the bullpen to be used for just three outs. Brian Dozier made two quality plays -- including snagging a line . Trea Turner charged a ground and used his jump throw to gain an out. Anthony Rendon charged a ground and used his smoothness to throw to first for another. Adam Eaton made a nice sliding catch.

Friday was nasty in the field. The Nationals committed three errors, should have been charged with four. Turner committed two (and would have been the recipient of a third if not for generous scoring). Manager Davey Martinez was not pleased with what he called “sloppy” play Friday. They clean it up Saturday.

2. Corbin was back for the eighth inning, starting with 89 pitches behind him and a run of retiring 16 out of 17.

Miami did not use one left-handed hitter Saturday. The strategy mattered little to Corbin, who picked up three double plays on the day and closed the eighth with a strikeout of Bryan Holaday.

Corbin was removed just five innings into his last start after throwing 98 pitches. Manager Davey Martinez said then the Nationals wanted to keep Corbin under 100 pitches three starts after he threw a career-high 118 pitches and was on a run of throwing at least 107 pitches.

Saturday, he finished the eighth at 103. Corbin hit for himself, despite two runners on base with two out, and came back out for the ninth. A strikeout, flyout and groundout followed.

In all, four hits, no runs, one walk and five strikeouts on 116 pitches.

3. The fourth inning had a little bit of everything Saturday. Adam Eaton committed a major running gaffe. Juan Soto ran from third on a contact play, stopped just short of home plate, then veered left and slid in safe. Victor Robles squared to bunt and leaned in. A 96-mph fastball came up and in, grazed his cheek and sent him to the ground. Team trainer Paul Lessard and manager Davey Martinez immediately ran out at the behest of home plate umpire Tim Timmons. Robles was OK, went to first, then later scored from first base on a single to shallow right.

The Nationals scored five runs in the inning to jolt what was a scoreless game. Eaton’s running mistake -- he made a hard turn at second base, then was hung up in a rundown -- carried the start of the inning. But, Yan Gomes’ squibber to right field redeemed Eaton by scoring three.

4. Sean Doolittle stood at his locker Friday night in case the media wanted to talk to him postgame following his second consecutive rough outing. Reporters took a pass -- no need to talk to a player every time they have a bad night -- and Doolittle went to the back for his postgame maintenance.

His two outings this week vaulted his ERA up almost two runs, from 1.71 to 3.68, before Saturday’s game.

Martinez said Doolittle’s recent bumps are not health-related, despite a downtick in velocity. Doolittle was throwing around 92 mph Friday. He hit 94 mph, but his velocity was down for the most part.

“Credit to Doolittle,” Martinez said. “He knows his stuff wasn’t what he wanted it to be [Friday], but he fought through it. That’s what a good closer does sometimes. I’ve got all the confidence and faith in the world...He knows what he needs to do. When you have a guy like that, and a closer like that, they know how to work out their [issues] when they’re struggling, some of his spin rate stuff he’s going to look at. The biggest thing is I don’t want him to start thinking there’s something wrong with him. I told him that [Friday]: ‘You’re one of the best. You’re an elite closer. It’s OK. Guys go through that.

5. The Nationals called up right-handed reliever James Borque from Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday. Joe Ross, who allowed three earned runs in his Friday appearance and has a 9.22 ERA, was sent to Triple-A Fresno.

Borque arrives after quality work in Harrisburg: a 1.33 ERA, 33 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. This is his first time on the major league roster. Borque believes better fastball command led to his success and subsequent call-up.

Ross lost the bite on his slider despite showing flashes of being an effective reliever. He will be "stretched out" in Fresno, though he is unlikely to be ready when the Nationals need a spot start April 29 in Atlanta. Kyle McGowin pitched in place of injured Anibal Sanchez (left hamstring strain) Friday. He allowed five earned runs in four innings and is unlikely to receive another opportunity.

Sanchez threw 41 pitches in a simulated game Friday. He felt well Saturday. Sanchez is expected to throw a bullpen session Sunday and make a rehabilitation start Wednesday.

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