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Nationals trade for CF Span

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Nationals trade for CF Span

Updated at 6:27 p.m.

The Nationals addressed their longstanding need for a leadoff hitter and center fielder this afternoon, acquiring Denard Span from the Twins in exchange for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer in a move that will have all sorts of domino effects on the roster.

Span, 28, is a classic leadoff-hitting center fielder who owns a .284 batting average and .357 on-base percentage in five seasons with Minnesota. He'll immediately jump into the Nationals' starting lineup, bumping Bryce Harper to one of the corner outfield positions.

"I think 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 ball around and can fly around the field."

The trade, though, means the Nationals will have only one available spot in their 2013 lineup for Adam LaRoche or Michael Morse. LaRoche is currently a free agent and is seeking at least a three-year contract. Morse remains under contract for one more season and could shift to first base if LaRoche leaves.

Though the obvious resolution would seem to have LaRoche signing elsewhere and Morse taking over at first base, Rizzo didn't rule out the possibility of retaining LaRoche and dealing Morse to another club.

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

Span had spent his entire 10-year, professional career with the Twins, drafted in the first round in 2002 out of Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School. The Nationals were interested in acquiring him at the July 31, 2011 trade deadline but were unwilling to send a package to Minnesota that included closer Drew Storen and others.

"My emotions right now are all over the place, but definitely excited," Span said. "I'm very excited to be coming to Washington. I think a year-and-a-half ago when I first heard the rumors, I definitely don't think I was ready for it then. But fast-forward to now, I'm definitely ready for it. I'm ready to be coming to a team that already is in place to win. I just hope I can come here and fit in and not get in the way."

The ultimate price to acquire Span was significant; Meyer, 22, was among the Nationals' top pitching prospects. A first-round pick in 2011, the 6-foot-9 right-hander went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA in his first professional season with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac.

"We understand the process," Rizzo said. "To get a good, established major-league player at Denard's age with the contract that he has, you're going to have to give up a good quality player."

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Victor Robles captures his 10th outfield assist in spectacular fashion

Victor Robles captures his 10th outfield assist in spectacular fashion

Nationals' outfielder, Victor Robles, has been sensational on defense this season and Saturday was no different. 

In the second inning of the Nats' game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Robles unleashed this beauty to claim his 10th outfield assist of the season (third of the week):

Here's another angle:

Robles is no stranger to celebrating his highlights in spectacular fashion - as just last week he gave this Dikembe Mutombo finger wag after throwing out Cincinnati Reds' Jose Peraza - so know he wouldn't dare disappoint this time around: 

"Don't run on Throwbles," is the new catchphrase circulating throughout social media recently, so it may be wise for opposing teams to respect the emerging moto.

But if they don't, just know it's very likely the result will look a little something like this:

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Max Scherzer creeps closer to making his next start

Max Scherzer creeps closer to making his next start

WASHINGTON -- Closer.

Max Scherzer threw a second simulation game Saturday. It went well, lasted 64 pitches, four innings and was delivered under awkward circumstances while a Q&A session with Nationals broadcasters blared through the stadium speakers.

Scherzer was engaged. He struck out Yan Gomes, then spiked a ball to the ground while on the mound. He circled the mound, jogged in and out of the dugout, tolerated the circumstances. Mike Rizzo, Davey Martinez, Paul Menhart and trainer Paul Lessard were among the viewers. 

“He wants to be on the mound,” Martinez said. “He wants to help us win. But this is part of it. He’s going to help us win. This is part of it. And hopefully [Sunday] he wakes up, feels really good, and then we’ll go from there.”

Scherzer could be back Thursday in Pittsburgh. The usual “ifs” apply here. If he feels well Sunday, if he throws a bullpen session Monday, if he feels well Tuesday, his first start since July 25 could come against the Pirates. 

“We’re trying to schedule everything as if: Today he pitched,” Martinez said. “He’s got five days. So he’ll be on his regular routine.”

If Scherzer pitches Thursday, the Nationals could manipulate his future schedule to give him seven starts to close the season, including a start against the Mets, two against the Braves, one against the Phillies and have him be ready for an Oct. 1 wild-card start, if necessary. 

However, the extended time away because of scapula and rhomboid injuries will snap Scherzer’s decade-long streak of making at least 30 starts. He’s made 20 so far this season.

The Nationals remain locked into his long-term health. Scherzer will be on a pitch count -- around 75-80 -- when he does return. If he comes through that first start well, he should be close to full strength from then on. At least, that’s the hope and premise for Martinez.

Scherzer’s return will carry dual benefits. First, it will be a boost to the contending Nationals, who are 11 games over .500 for the first time this season. Second, it will end the debates between Martinez and Scherzer about the injury timeline.

“I can’t wait,” Martinez said. “I want to see Max Scherzer on the mound pitching for the Nationals. He’s never had this before. It’s something new for him. So we’re all anxious for him to get back on the mound and help us win.”

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