The optimism surrounding Denard Span’s return from back trouble earlier this week morphed quickly to disappointment Friday. The Nationals placed Span on the disabled list with left hip inflammation, and a person familiar with the situation said he will have season-ending hip surgery on Tuesday. Nationals Manager Matt Williams reports the surgery involves the labrum in his hip.
So ends an agonizing season for the 31-year-old center fielder, who led the National League in hits in 2014, but could never get healthy after two off-season core surgeries. He had surgery on his left side in December, then on his rectus abdominus muscle in his right side in March. He worked his way back from the latter surgery remarkably quickly, and returned to the Nationals in April. In retrospect, he admitted earlier this month, he probably rushed that process.
Consequently, he never fully rebuilt his core strength. He has said since that weakness in key stabilizing muscles likely led to the back spasms that forced him to the disabled list in July. He returned Tuesday, not feeling full strength, and lasted two games before hip trouble — which Williams said was related to the lower back issues — forced him from Thursday’s lineup and then back to the DL. The whole progression is confusing, troublesome and uncommon, a puzzling domino effect that cost Span his free agent year. Williams couldn’t explain it.
“If I had that answer, we would certainly try not to have it happen. But I don’t know how that happens,” Williams said. “This game that we play is not conducive to any of those joints, whether it’s your shoulder, your elbow, your hips, your back. It’s all rotational, and at times it can be damaging. He’s gonna get it fixed and go from there.”
Williams said Span had “some hip pain” before this week, but that kind of pain — back, abs, etc — is “all connected.” Players can endure labrum issues, which are not always as quick to deteriorate as Span’s timetable suggests. It seems likely Span was dealing with trouble there as he dealt with core and back trouble, though which came first or why is unclear, and it certainly makes sense that all that trouble would be intertwined as Williams said.
In need of a center fielder — Bryce Harper had to play there Thursday night and will do so again Friday — the Nationals recalled 28-year-old Matt den Dekker from Class AAA Syracuse Friday. Den Dekker homered in his first Nationals start earlier this season, and is hitting .184 in 26 games with Washington this year. MLB.com was the first to report Span’s upcoming surgery.