ATLANTA — A Nationals club that already has had to deal with injuries to several key regulars in the season's first two weeks has added another name to the fray, placing Denard Span on the 7-day concussion disabled list after the outfielder's scary collision with Atlanta's Dan Uggla during Friday night's game at Turner Field.
The decision to place Span on the concussion DL was one of several transactions made prior to Saturday's game against the Braves. Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. was recalled from Class AAA Syracuse to take Span's roster spot. Right-hander Blake Treinen had his contract purchased from Syracuse to give the club a fresh arm in their overworked bullpen, with fellow rookie reliever Aaon Barrett optioned to Class AAA to make room. And minor-league utilityman Jeff Kobernus, who fractured his hand earlier this week, was recalled and then placed on the 60-day DL, clearing a spot on the 40-man roster for Treinen.
The Span move, though, was most significant, especially taking into account his history with concussions. He missed considerable time in 2011 with the Twins after suffering a concussion following a collision at the plate, though he returned in 2012 and over the last two-plus seasons reported no lingering effects from the injury.
Span hurt himself in the eighth inning Friday night when he rounded first after singling and collided with Uggla, falling to the ground in a heap. Nationals assistant trainer Steve Gober examined him on the field and cleared him to remain in the game, and head trainer Lee Kuntz also cleared him after another test at the end of the inning.
After the game, though, Span noted a mild headache, according to manager Matt Williams. He was examined by one of the Braves team doctors, who said he wanted to take another look at him Saturday. That final exam revealed concussion symptoms, so the Nationals placed Span on the 7-day DL, created by Major League Baseball in 2011 specifically for these type of injuries.
"[Span's] history is there, but the move is there because of the test and what the doctor observed," Williams said. "We certainly don't want any of our players out there not 100 percent. The doctor said, in his opinion, he thought it would be prudent for him to take some days (off) and make sure. That's why we made the move."
Span remained at the team hotel Saturday and planned to watch the game on television. He will be re-examined Sunday, at which point doctors will determine if he can fly with the club to Miami for a three-game series against the Marlins, or whether he needs to return home to Washington for more rest.
If all goes well, Span is eligible to return in one week, but team officials don't know yet if he'll be cleared.
"Certainly any time this happens to any player, the first step is rest," Williams said. "He's not going to be here today. He's back at the hotel resting and taking it easy. Once he goes through that, then you ramp his heart rate and put him through some exercise and see how he reacts. And there's a number of protocols we use to do that. But right now, it's just calming down, resting, making sure that he doesn't have symptoms. And we'll check with him throughout the course of the game tonight."
Uggla told Atlanta reporters he was trying to sneak behind Span in case he could be thrown at at first base on the play. Before learning that Span had been placed on the concussion DL, the Braves second baseman acknowledged the outfielder's history.
"I'm guessing his head hit somewhere on my body, I guess," Uggla told reporters. "I don't know. I haven't seen a replay. I didn't look. I know that he had a concussion a few years ago. I know those things are easy to flare up or whatever. ... I wanted to give him a hug, you know. He's a friend of mine."
With Span out at least a week, the Nationals called up Souza from Syracuse, where he was 6-for-22 with two homers and seven RBI to begin the season. The 24-year-old outfielder arrived at Turner Field around 5 p.m., a bit harried after sleeping in and missing his early-morning flight from Scranton, but excited to make his major-league debut.
Treinen, likewise, is making his big-league debut after getting called up from Class AAA, where he had made one start five days ago. The right-hander was scheduled to start Saturday, so he was fresh and available if the Nationals needed him out of the bullpen against the Braves, the reason behind this roster move.
"I don't think I was expecting to get a call this early, by any means, especially the way that they've been lights-out," Treinen said. "I just feel like it caught me off-guard a little bit. But I'm excited. How can you not be?"
Needing another available reliever for the immediate future, the Nationals made the surprising decision to demote Barrett to Syracuse. The right-hander had been brilliant to begin his career, finally giving up a hit Friday night after retiring 13 of the first 14 big-league hitters he faced. Williams, though, said Barrett's demotion wasn't performance-based and that he's likely to return as soon as he's eligible in 10 days.
"He has done everything we've asked him to do," the manager said. "And above and beyond. But the way our bullpen is situated right now, we needed a guy that could give us length. It's one of those decisions that you make because you have to make it. Not because you want to make it."
Barrett understood the rationale behind his demotion.
"If you look at it logistically, the bullpen has been pretty overworked at the moment," he said. "They just told me right now they need innings. It is what it is. Yeah, it stinks getting sent down, but at the same time I'm not going to beat myself up about it. It's not because it's performance-based. We need innings."