MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Span motors home from first in DL return; Taylor optioned

Center fielder notches hit, scores run in season debut atop Nationals' lineup

Span motors home from first in DL return; Taylor optioned

WASHINGTON -- Nationals center fielder Denard Span was activated from the 15-day disabled list and provided a spark as the leadoff hitter in a 4-1 victory over the Phillies on Sunday.

"We are glad to have him back. It's another good player that we bring to the lineup. It lengthens our lineup. It makes us a better team," general manager Mike Rizzo said.

Span missed the first 12 games of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle. Span initially thought he would be back by mid-May, but he recovered quicker than expected.

"I give glory to God. It has been tough times, but I stuck with it from the very first day post-surgery," said Span, 31. "I took the rehab process seriously. I didn't cut any corners. I did everything the doctors and trainers told me to do. It's a result of why I'm back right now."

In his first game back, Span went 1-for-5 and scored all the way from first base on a double from Ian Desmond.

Desmond's RBI double

"I was out of breath. I felt good just to get on my horses like that. It's been a while since I've been able to do that," Span said. "It's good to contribute today."

By having Span back, manager Matt Williams said things were "more normal today," with their leadoff man atop the lineup.

"Today was a little step back to where we have planned it all along," Williams said.

With Span back, the Nationals optioned Michael Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse even though he has been one of the top hitters on the club. He was tied with Wilson Ramos for the team lead in RBIs with eight.

Rizzo was impressed with what he saw from Taylor, who is ranked as the Nationals' second-best prospect. But the GM felt Taylor needed to continue his development by playing every day. Had he stayed with the Nationals, Taylor would have been lucky to get regular action two games a week.

Taylor's solo shot

"He is one of our future players and needs to play every day," Rizzo said. "We got to see Michael Taylor become a player for us right in front of our eyes. I thought he handled himself brilliantly with some youthful mistakes. The ability level is there. The usefulness of putting it to a Major League setting was there and he took to it very well."

Taylor thought he did all right in the big leagues, but acknowledged there is room for improvement.

"I made some mistakes that I know better of," Taylor said."It's been great [in the big leagues]. Anytime you can get to the level you want to play at, see some pitching, get some at-bats, it definitely helps."

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