MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Injuries may force Williams to shuffle lineup

Leadoff hitter Span set for DL; Opening Day status of Werth, Rendon in question

Injuries may force Williams to shuffle lineup

VIERA, Fla. -- With the start of the season nine days away for the Nationals, manager Matt Williams will need a contingency plan in case some of his major players are not ready for Opening Day.

Center fielder Denard Span will start the season on the disabled list because of a surgically repaired rectus abdominis (abdominal) muscle. And it's still up in the air if third baseman Anthony Rendon (left knee) and outfielder Jayson Werth (right shoulder) will start the season on time. One has to think that being on the 25-man roster when the Nats break camp is in jeopardy for both players.

"If we get in a situation where we are missing those guys. then we have to adjust and do what we have to do," Williams said.

That means the Nationals have to look for a leadoff hitter to replace Span and second- and third-hole hitters to replace Rendon and Werth, respectively.

Outfielder Michael Taylor and shortstop Yunel Escobar are capable of being leadoff hitters. During his career, Escobar is a .287 hitter from the leadoff spot, but more importantly, he has a .353 on-base percentage. Taylor, the center fielder of the future, can provide power batting first. He has hit mostly leadoff this spring and has been above average, but he has also struck out plenty. In his first at-bat Sunday, he went yard off Marlins starter Tom Koehler.

Escobar's first spring at-bat

Ian Desmond, who has spent most of his career hitting in the fifth and sixth spots, could find himself hitting second in the order. Desmond has been solid during his career hitting second, with a .283 batting average and a .324 on-base percentage.

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman is a guy who has hit second in the order, but one would think that his bat is best used in the middle of the order.

Right fielder Bryce Harper will be in the middle of the order this year, but he could potentially hit third, replacing Werth. Harper has a .266 batting average during his career hitting third, but he has 14 home runs and 40 RBIs in 324 plate appearances.

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