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No DL yet, but Span bracing for possibility

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No DL yet, but Span bracing for possibility

Denard Span, in official terms, was still a member of the Nationals’ active roster late Tuesday night. The veteran center fielder, though, sure sounded like a guy who believes he needs to take some extended time off with a back injury that just won’t go away.

“I’ve tried to play through it for the last month,” Span said following Tuesday night’s 5-0 loss to the Reds. “I don’t think I’m doing myself or the team any good. I’ve been playing every four days and then getting a day off here and there. I can’t do that. I can’t do that to the team. It puts the team in a bad spot.”

Since first experiencing back spasms during a June 7 loss to the Cubs, Span has either been out of the lineup or forced out of a game early eight separate times. He has so far never missed two consecutive games, but after leaving Monday night’s loss in the third inning and being held out of Tuesday night’s games, he underwent an MRI to determine if there is a more serious underlying injury.

Span and manager Matt Williams said Tuesday night those MRI results had not yet been reviewed by a back specialist, and that no decisions would be made until that happened. Williams, though, was unusually late to his postgame news conference — a delay typically accompanies a roster transaction — and Span sounded like someone resigned to a DL stint afterward.

“Right now we’re waiting to see what the doctor’s going to do,” he said. “I’ve tried to take it into my own hands and tried to play. I’ve tried to tough it out for the last month, and it’s been the same old cycle. I’ve listened to my body. My body is obviously telling me something. It’s locked up on me about four times now.

MORE NATIONALS: REDS ROCK SCHERZER

“It ain’t about being smart, because I’ve been dumb, I think, for the last month. Now I’ve gotta finally be smart and listen to my body and find out what’s going on before I go any further. I don’t want to mess around with my back. That could be a career-ending-type injury. I don’t want to mess around with my back.”

Regardless of the MRI results, Span is scheduled to see the specialist in person Thursday, when the Nationals are off before a weekend series in Baltimore.

Despite all the sporadic time out of the lineup this season — he has missed 25 total games due to a variety of ailments — Span has performed well when healthy enough to play. He’s hitting .304 with a .367 on-base percentage, five homers, 22 RBI and is 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts, all while playing an exceptional center field.

Span’s importance to the Nationals can’t be questioned. The club is 35-24 when he has played this season, only 11-14 when he has been out of the lineup.

The 31-year-old, a pending free agent, was one of five regulars out of the Nationals lineup Tuesday night, joined by Yunel Escobar (tight hamstring) and three players already on the DL (Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth).

Should Span need to go on the DL himself, the Nationals would find themselves dangerously thin on productive, established, big-league hitters. Right now, though, Span can only be concerned about his own uncertain status.

“I’m very anxious right now,” he said. “I want to know what’s going on.”

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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@MLB

Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.