With Denard Span in the lineup this season, the Washington Nationals are 35-24... which is good, but also means he's played in just 59 games.
The start of the 31-year-old center fielder and leadoff man's 2015 campaign was delayed as he recovered from his second surgery of the year (sports hernia/core muscle injury), but he returned to the lineup on April 19th and put up a .304/.367/.430 line with 15 doubles and five home runs in those 59 games and his 265 plate appearances.
Late in a June 7th game against the Chicago Cubs, however, Span's lower back locked up on him.
Span left the game and returned to action three days later, but the issue eventually led to him landing on the Disabled List a month later when the back spasms kept recurring.
"It's got to the point now that I've got to figure out what's going on," he told reporters after going on the 15-Day DL.
"This is bigger than today. Hopefully I want to play another ten years, so I've got to figure this out."
Span returned to action on a rehab assignment on August 16th and went 7 for 17 in six games played between the Class-A Hagerstown Suns, the High-A Potomac Nationals and Double-A Harrisburg Senators.
After going 1 for 3 with the Senators on Sunday, Span told MLB.com's Bill Ladson on Monday that he expected to be reinstated from the DL today in time to play in the series opener with the San Diego Padres tonight:
"I feel good enough. I don't feel great. I don't think I'm going to feel great until this offseason. But I tested it out, and I feel confident that I can bring it up to the big league level. I can't predict the future. I'm confident that I'm ready to come up and try to help this team win."
The Nationals announced Span's return this afternoon:
In order to make room on the roster, the Nationals optioned right-hander Tanner Roark to High-A Potomac.
Roark, a 15-game winner in 2015 who was shifted to the bullpen after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer this winter, has moved back and forth between the bullpen and rotation this season.
In a note in their press release on today's move, the Nationals note that Roark will transition to the starting rotation while with the P-Nats.
In 34 appearances, six of them starts, Roark has put up a 4.54 ERA, a 4.50 FIP, 18 walks (2.04 BB/9) and 52 Ks (5.90 K/9) in 79 ⅓ innings pitched.