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Nationals get Span from Twins for minor leaguer

Nationals get Span from Twins for minor leaguer

WASHINGTON (AP) With the addition of Denard Span, the Washington Nationals aren't just plugging a player into the lineup and moving on. He's like that nice new piece of furniture that causes the homeowner to redecorate the entire room - just so everything is in the perfect spot.

The Nationals acquired the center fielder from the Minnesota Twins for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer on Thursday, setting off a chain reaction for the reigning NL East champions.

With Span in center, 20-year-old Bryce Harper moves to a corner spot - probably left field, with Jayson Werth staying in right. Michael Morse could then move to first base - the position played by free-agent slugger Adam LaRoche.

Also, with Span hitting leadoff, Werth drops a few spots in the batting order. And with either Morse or LaRoche seemingly on the way out, Harper could move down in the lineup as well.

All for a player who hit .284 with 90 steals and a .357 on-base percentage during five seasons with the Twins - the type of player the Nationals have been seeking since moving to Washington in 2005.

``He's going to bring a dimension to the club that we haven't had before,'' general manager Mike Rizzo said, ``a fast-moving, exciting guy that makes contact and moves the guy around and can fly around the field.''

Harper is also fast-moving and can fly around the field - although he hits with much more power than Span and is a converted catcher. Harper had some adventures in center field this season but was also a sparkplug, doing enough with his bat and glove to win the NL's Rookie of the Year award.

Nevertheless, the Nationals have always wanted to move him one spot over.

``He's a terrific young center fielder,'' Rizzo said. ``But we felt for his long-term development and his career path that we wanted to move him out of a taxing position of center field, both mentally taxing and physically taxing. We've accomplished that.''

Werth also seemed a bit out of place as a leadoff hitter. He selflessly handled the role just fine this year, but he was there essentially by default because there wasn't a better option.

``I think his best skillset is farther down,'' Rizzo said, ``in a run-producing type of spot.''

As for the first base dilemma, Rizzo said the team is still in talks with LaRoche and has entertained some trade queries about Morse, so either player could end up there next season.

``It gives us some options in dealing with our roster,'' Rizzo said.

Span's name has surfaced in trade rumors for much of the past two years, including some interest from the Nationals in 2010. He asserted himself as one of the Twins' building blocks in 2009 and 2010, emerging as a quality leadoff hitter and versatile outfielder.

Span is entering the fourth year of a $16.5 million, five-year contract with a $9 million club option for a sixth year. His deal was considered quite a bargain for the Twins given Span's production in the first two seasons, but he only played in 70 games in 2011 because of issues with concussions and migraines, then worked to revamp his diet and workout regimen to try to better manage the situation.

``Hearing trade talks and going through a concussion wasn't easy for me,'' said Span, who was born in Washington but has never lived in the city. ``But fast forward to today - and I'm definitely ready. ... I'm ready to be coming to a team that is already in a place to win, and I just hope that I can come here and not get in the way.''

Span played in 128 games this year, hitting .284 with four homers and 41 RBIs. He missed time late in the season due to a strained right collarbone, allowing Ben Revere to showcase his speed in the outfield and on the basepaths.

``He took a step forward last year in our minds,'' Twins general manager Terry Ryan said of Revere. ``He played well. He played with a wealth of energy. This should fit.''

The Twins are coming off back-to-back last-place finishes in the AL Central and were in desperate need of starting pitchers. Scott Diamond is the only proven starter on the roster right now and there is a dearth of power arms in the farm system to help fill the need.

The one area of strength the Twins had to deal for pitching was outfield, with Span and Revere with the big league team and promising prospects such as Aaron Hicks in the minor leagues. So while Span was a valuable player on the field and one of the respected veterans in the clubhouse, he was a natural candidate to be dangled in a trade.

Meyer should help, but not in the short-term. The 6-foot-9 flamethrower went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA splitting time at Class A Potomac and Hagerstown this year.

``He's a starting pitcher, which we need'' Ryan said. ``He's got the stuff, he's got the frame, he throws it over the plate. ... He played in two different A-ball leagues last year. On the surface that means he's not as close as you'd like, but we'll let him dictate his pace and see exactly how he responds to it.''

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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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Nationals CF Victor Robles closing in on a return to the lineup

Nationals CF Victor Robles closing in on a return to the lineup

He has not played since Game 2 of the National League Division Series when he pulled up because of a hamstring strain after crossing first base. The strain was described at the time as “mild.” Robles has been working toward a return since then.

“We're going to run him a little bit [Sunday],” Davey Martinez said Sunday on a conference call. “He's got to get some treatment, and then we'll see [Monday]. He'll participate in BP and do a little bit more running, and we'll see where we're at [Monday].

“I'm not going to anticipate anything until he comes in [Monday], but he's progressing, and hopefully he'll be ready [Monday].”

Michael A. Taylor replaced Robles in center field. He hit an important solo home run Saturday and is hitting .300 in the postseason. He also made a significant judgment error in the outfield which allowed the Cardinals’ lone Game 2 -- and series -- run to score.

Martinez made it sound like Taylor’s time as the starting center fielder is over when Robles is ready to return.

“Victor has been in center field all year, and he's played really well for us,” Martinez said. “When he's healthy, he'll get a chance to play. But like I said before, we want him to be at 100 percent. So until then, we'll see what happens here in the next day or so.”

Few other changes are expected Monday. Stephen Strasburg will start. Kurt Suzuki -- despite his lack of postseason hitting and trouble throwing out runners -- should be behind the plate.

Reliever Roenis Elías, who has not thrown a pitch in the major leagues since Sept. 5, may be in the mix Monday because Patrick Corbin’s bullpen appearances are now on hold prior to his Game 4 start.

“Moving forward, Elias is going to have to get those big outs against the lefties here in the next couple days,” Martinez said.

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Harper-Dusty reunion? Baker reportedly interviewing for Phillies manager job

Harper-Dusty reunion? Baker reportedly interviewing for Phillies manager job

After the Washington Nationals won back-to-back NL East division titles from 2017-2018 but failed to make it past the NLDS in each of those seasons, they cut bait with manager Dusty Baker by electing not to re-sign him when his contract expired.

Baker now has a chance to return to a managerial role, as the Chicago Tribune is reporting that he’s earned an interview with the Philadelphia Phillies after they fired Gabe Kapler last week.

The Phillies of course employ the services of Bryce Harper, who played under Baker in Washington and has spoken highly of him in the past.

After the Nats let him go, Baker stepped away from baseball for a year before joining the San Francisco Giants as a special adviser to the CEO last season. The two-time All-Star outfielder has managed the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals over parts of 22 seasons, amassing a career record of 1,863-1,636 (.532).

Of the 15 skippers with more wins in their managerial careers, 13 are in the Hall of Fame and one (Bruce Bochy) is a shoo-in to get there. The other is Gene Mauch, who joins Baker as the only two managers with at least 1,600 wins to never claim a World Series title.

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