Do the Nationals have enough power without Morse?
When the Nationals traded a top pitching prospect to Minnesota for center fielder Denard Span, it signaled a shift in their approach. The team wanted to improve their outfield defense and get a more traditional leadoff hitter to set the table. In Wednesday’s win over the Marlins, just his second game with the team, Span gave visible proof of both dimensions.
He got on base, four times in fact, and in a variety of ways. He hit a double in the third inning, drew two walks - something he showcased in spring training – and even reached on a bizarre fielder’s choice.
Span said afterwards he was just doing what he is supposed to do.
“That’s my job is to try to get on base and I was able do to that. That’s my number one goal,” he said.
“I used to play with [Kevin] Slowey so I kind of knew what he was featuring. I was just able to put together some good at-bats and get on base.”
Span walked in his first and third at-bats, reaching base for each of his first three plate appearances. He also reached the fourth time up, in a strange sequence ruled as a fielder’s choice by second baseman Donovan Solano.
Span grounded to Solano who collided with Roger Bernadina on the base path. He fell down and threw too late to first, allowing Span to reach safely. Meanwhile Danny Espinosa scored from third to put the Nats up 2-0.
“I was confused,” he said. “When I hit it, I thought he was going to keep going to second. When he ran into him, I thought initially he was going to call both of us out and call interference on Bernadina. But I think the umpire was saying that Solano caught the ball first so, whatever that meant. I’m just glad I was able to get the run in.”
Span also made one of the game’s best defensive plays in catching a long fly ball by Adeiny Hechavarria. The Marlins shortstop crushed a line drive that would have hit the scoreboard in right-center if it weren’t for a good jump by Span. It was the type of play that presented a high degree of difficulty, but Span made it look easy.
“That was to right-center. I was kind of shading him a little bit to right-center, but he hit the ball real hard. I just reacted and caught the ball,” he said.
Span anchors an outfield that includes Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, too spry defenders who themselves can play center field. He is still learning the dimensions of Nationals Park and the tendencies of his teammates, but so far so good.
”We’re all communicating together, I think we’re on the same page,” he said. “I think you saw me and Werth both make some running catches and I think that’s going to definitely make our pitchers happy to see us run down balls in the gap like that.”