Standing on a practice field on chilly and windy Sunday morning before batting practice during the first full team workouts, Denard Span and Manager Davey Johnson talked briefly. Johnson still hopes to spend more time chatting with the Nationals’ new center fielder, but from that short exchange, the manager got a better idea of how he wants to ease Span into action with his teammates.
“I told him that I wanted to get him comfortable alongside multiple right and left fielders, and I wanted them to get comfortable with him,” Johnson said. “That was probably more of my concern, and I wanted him to get a little bit of playing time early and I wanted him to know what kind of workload he feels best suited in spring training.”
Johnson leans on veteran players to tell him how much they want to play in spring training to get ready for the season. Span said his best season was in 2009, when he played in 26 spring training games and got 84 at-bats.
“It wasn’t fun going through it, but I felt like once the season started, I felt like from Game 1 I was ready to go,” he said. “There’s been a couple years after where I got more the veteran treatment. I didn’t get as many at-bats. I went into the season still kind of feeling or searching for some stuff. I don’t want 100 at-bats, but I want more than 50 at-bats — somewhere in between 50 and 75.”
During the season, Span will play primarily alongside Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. But both, particularly Werth who continues to build strength in his left wrist, likely will be eased into action, and Span also will have to play alongside the Nationals’ other outfielders, such as Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore. (Steve Lombardozzi, Johnson said, will focus only on second base this spring.)
“Even the last few years in Minnesota, I had different outfielders,” Span said. “Spring training, this is the time to iron out all the communication stuff, just to see each others range. This time is real big. Not just for me, for all three of us, so we can all be on the same page, know where to play, how much room we have and all that type of stuff.”