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Denard Span returns to Nationals' lineup for finale with Rays

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The astroturf in Tropicana Field apparently got to Denard Span, leading to him missing last night's game with Tampa Bay in the nation's capital, but he's back atop the lineup tonight for the finale with the Rays. Matt Williams talked about his leadoff man today.

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Photo © and courtesy @Nationals on the Twitter.
Photo © and courtesy @Nationals on the Twitter.

Center fielder and leadoff man Denard Span didn't play in last night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays in D.C. after he went 11 for 30 (.367/.441/.433) with two doubles in seven games in the Nationals' recently-completed eight-game road trip through New York, Milwaukee and Tampa Bay.

In an MLB Network Radio interview this morning, Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked about Span's status as he continues to deal with the issues that have bothered him and occasionally kept him out of the lineup this season.

"He had a back spasm coming out of the dugout last homestand, and, you know, any time you go to astroturf it's never good on the back." -Matt Williams on Denard Span missing last night's game

"He had a back spasm coming out of the dugout last homestand," Williams explained, "and, you know, any time you go to astroturf it's never good on the back. So he played two games there [in Tropicana Field]. We got him out of the game the other night with the big lead, but those two games got him."

"We have to look back to Spring Training," Williams continued. "He's had two surgeries this year and those were abdominal surgeries. So lack of strength there, because of the surgery, put a little bit more pressure on the back, a little bit more pressure on the legs, so we're going to have to find those times. It is still very early on for him in his process because he did have those two surgeries and miss Spring Training essentially, so we have to monitor and make sure that if he's not feeling good then we get him out of there during the course of a game if we can, and there will be days where we just have to give him a day.

"I think that will kind of be the case through the All-Star Break, and then when the All-Star Break gets here he should be back to mid-season form if you will and then have the ability to play every single day."

When he has been able to play, Span has provided the Nationals with exactly what they've been looking for from him again this year after taking his game to another level in his second season in D.C. last summer.

Through 45 games and 206 plate appearances this season, the 31-year-old outfielder has put up a .303/.351/.452 line with 13 doubles and five home runs.

Span's back in the lineup tonight: