Denard Span has played just a dozen games as a National Leaguer, and his unfamiliarity with the nuances of life without the DH provided a needed moment of levity toward the end of the Nationals’ lost weekend against the Braves.
In the top of the fifth inning yesterday, Gio Gonzalez sopped up one last inning for the bullpen, his pitch count rising to 98. Manager Davey Johnson made the easy choice to pinch hit for Gonzalez in the bottom of the inning as long reliever Zach Duke warmed in the bullpen. Span then made the final out of the fifth.
As routine dictated, the Nationals removed Span at the same time Duke entered the game in a double switch. Duke took Span’s spot in the lineup to allow maximum time to turn over before Duke would have to either hit himself or be removed for another pinch hitter. It was standard stuff — just not for Span, a player who spent his entire career before 2013 with the American League Minnesota Twins.
Span was anticipating one chance against Paul Maholm, against whom he had gone 0 for 3. Bench coach Randy Knorr waved Span over with a finger. When his teammates would have understood, Span started to worry.
“I’m like, ‘Did I not hustle? What did I do?’ ” Span said afterward. “I didn’t know what was going on. I’ve never been pulled out of the game like that. I’m still learning. Honestly, I’m starting to kind of understand it, but I still don’t fully understand it. I understand what’s going on, obviously. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Even after a gentle explanation, Span still wasn’t quite sure of the whole double-switch thing.
“I didn’t know what the heck was going on,” Span said. “The first time being double-switch in the National League. I thought maybe I got benched. I was like, ‘What did I do?’ They had to break it down to me, let me know what was going on. Even though I still don’t understand. I just shook my head and took a seat.”
On his way to the pine, Span received fist bumps from his teammates and coach, which relieved him of any concern he had loafed or done something wrong. He was still not a proponent of the new strategy he’s still learning.
“If I ever become a manager,” Span said, “it’s going to be in the American League.”
FROM THE POST
The Nationals are not going to overreact to a bad series so early in the season – and they shouldn’t, Jason Reid writes.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Lehigh Valley 5, Syracuse 2: Corey Brown went 1 for 4 with a double. Chris Marrero went 1 for 3 with a double. Wil Rhymes went 1 for 3 with a triple. Yunesky Maya allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings on five hits and two walks, striking out four.
Syracuse 3, Lehigh Valley 2: Jeff Kobernus went 3 for 4 to raise his average to .556 after 27 at-bats. Ryan Perry allowed one run in five innings on four hits and no walks, striking out four. J.C. Romero allowed no runs in one inning, giving him four scoreless appearances on the season. Eury Perez went on the disabled list with a wrist injury and will likely miss around 10 days.
Harrisburg 4, Altoona 2: Brian Goodwin went 3 for 5 with two doubles. Anthony Rendon went 4 for 4 with two doubles. Brian Broderick allowed one run in five innings on five hits and three walks, striking out three. Outfielder Steven Souza was placed on the DL with a sore shoulder, an injury that does not appear to be significant. Souza was hitting .370 with a 1.194 OPS through nine games, both team highs.
Lynchburg 6, Potomac 4: Billy Burns went 2 for 3 with a triple and a walk. Michael Taylor went 1 for 4 and is hitting .158. Kylin Turnbull allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings on four hits and no walks, striking out six.
Hagerstown 6, Delmarva 4: Tony Renda went 2 for 4 with a double. Will Piwnica-Worms went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Bryan Harper, Bryce’s brother, allowed one run in two relief innings on three hits and a walk, striking out two. His ERA sits at 1.59.