Bill Ladson

Span has surgery on core muscle, expects to miss opener

Span has surgery on core muscle, expects to miss opener

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals will be without center fielder Denard Span for a lengthy period. The center fielder had surgery to repair a right core muscle in Philadelphia on Monday, and it's not known how long he will be out for, but Span said he doesn't believe he will be ready for the start of the regular season.

Span said he started feeling pain in his right core muscle six or seven weeks after having hernia surgery in early December. He was hoping the pain would go away by the time he arrived for Spring Training, but it grew worse after he played against the Mets on Thursday.

"[The pain] was off and on," Span said. "I got to Spring Training. I tried to play on Thursday and it didn't respond well."

Span could be doing baseball activities in four to six weeks. He is expected to rejoin the Nats later this week.

"The good thing is, he has experience with [the injury]. He knows what to expect in that regard and what he can and can't do," manager Matt Williams said. "So we'll see. To put a time frame on it right now is premature. The good thing is, he got it fixed."

Span is a key piece to Washington's offense. A leadoff hitter, he is coming off one of his best seasons, leading the team in batting average (.302) and setting career highs in hits (184) and stolen bases (31).

With Span out, the Nationals will take a long look at Michael Taylor, who went 2-for-3 against the Yankees on Sunday. Taylor has a chance to be the Nats' starting center fielder by 2016, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts if he wants to be an everyday player.

"Michael will get the majority of the reps in the spring in that regard," Williams said. "We signed Tony Gwynn [Jr.], so he will get some opportunity out there, too."

Span becomes the third Nationals outfielder to sustain a serious injury this spring. Jayson Werth and Nate McLouth haven't played in a Major League Spring Training game because of shoulder injuries. Werth has been taking dry swings, is expected to throw next week and hopes to be ready as the Opening Day left fielder. McLouth has only played in Minor League games, but he hasn't played defense because of the shoulder.

Gwynn was to start in center field Monday against the Braves (1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV), but Taylor will be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Marlins at 1:05 p.m.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.