MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Span may return by late April

Span may return by late April

WASHINGTON -- It looks like center fielder Denard Span will be back with the Nationals sooner than expected. Span, who is on the disabled list because of a torn abdominal muscle, could be back on the field by late April. Originally, he thought he would return to action sometime in May.

Early Monday afternoon, Span was doing hard sprints on the outfield grass. He already played two Minor League games -- defense only -- and will play a simulated game on Tuesday at Nationals Park. He is expected to swing the bat that day. Span then will return to the team's Spring Training complex in Viera, Fla., later this week and continue to his rehab assignment.

"I feel pretty good," Span said. "I still have a lot of work to do. I have to get in real game situations as far as hitting, stealing bases, going first to third. Starting next week, we are going to start doing that stuff. If I continue to get well, I think I will be back before May."

Being in the best of shape is one of the reasons Span is optimistic that he can come back earlier than expected.

"I've taken pride in my work ethic. So I'm sure that's why I'm in the position I'm in now," Span said. "I've taken the rehab process very seriously. I haven't cut any corners. So that is the big reasons I'm feeling pretty good."

Outfielder Jayson Werth was hoping that he could play Opening Day on Monday against the Mets, but passed on playing in a Minor League game on Sunday, deciding not to rush back. Werth still needs more at-bats and has mild discomfort in his right shoulder.

Werth is still shooting to play his first Major League game on April 13 against the Red Sox. He is on the disabled list because of shoulder surgery he had in his right shoulder in January.

Werth is expected to go on a rehab assignment once the Minor League season starts Thursday.

"We talked about playing today, but I'm not quite ready," Werth said. "But we are coming along. It's definitely progressing. I've been playing in the Minor Leagues [during Spring Training]. I wanted to be here today. I have a couple of more hurdles to cross before I'm ready to go."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com 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.