Denard Span will travel to Dallas on Thursday to have his injured back examined by a specialist, and though he hasn’t been placed on the disabled list yet the Nationals center fielder said he won’t play at all in this weekend’s series in Baltimore.
“No chance,” Span said, before adding: “Definitely not helping the team by doing what I’ve been doing for the last 3-4 weeks. Missing games here and there, playing four games. Definitely, I’ve been putting the team in a bad spot.”
Span has now either been out of the Nationals’ lineup or removed mid-game with back spasms nine times in the last month. When he has been able to play, he’s actually been remarkably productive — he’s batting .329 with a .430 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases in 21 games since first getting hurt June 7 — but the veteran center fielder is concerned he’s risking serious injury if he tries to continue playing through it.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good, been active on the bases, stealing bases,” he said. “That is why I kept playing, because even though my back was locking up on me, a couple days after that my body felt brand new. So, I thought that everything was OK. But this has happened too frequently. I’ve got to figure out what’s going on.”
With Span saying he doesn’t expect to return until after the All-Star break, the Nationals could have simply placed him on the DL now. Manager Matt Williams, though, said the club doesn’t want to resort to that move until it knows the extent of the injury for certain.
“We want to find the root,” Williams said. “Everything is predicated on that root. It’s a perplexing one, because 4-5 days in a row, he’s great. And then all of the sudden, it crops up again. So we’ll get him to see a specialist and talk about it. He can read an MRI and say it’s X, but until he gets a chance to see him physically and examine him, he won’t be able to give us that information anyway. Hopefully at some point tomorrow we’ll have a better answer on it.”
Span’s season has been filled with physical ailments. He had surgery in December to repair a sports hernia, then another surgery in March to repair a tear on the other side of his abdomen. Now he wonders if compensation for those injuries may have led to his current back problems.
Whatever the case, he said the time has come for a definitive answer to what ails him.
“The last month, it was kind of hard to tell because I was bouncing back. It was a lot of professional guessing, I guess you could say. Thinking that this is what it might be, this is what it might be. I was doing a bunch of exercises, and I was responding fairly well. I was still maintaining my play on the field, so we didn’t think it was anything serious.
“But, like I said, it’s gotten to the point now where I’ve got to figure out what is going on. This is bigger than today. Hopefully, I want to play for another 10 years. So I’ve got to figure this out.”
Meanwhile, third baseman Yunel Escobar also sat out his second straight game Wednesday with tightness in his left hamstring. Williams, thoug