Span was placed on the disabled list Friday, retroactive to Thursday, with left hip inflammation. The Nationals recalled outfielder Matt den Dekker from Triple-A Syracuse to take Span's spot on the roster.
"He means a lot to this team," outfielder Clint Robinson said of Span. "Obviously, whenever he is in the lineup and whenever he is going, the team seems to be better. I feel bad for him. I know he wants to be out here. He wants to play. It's a tough situation. Sometimes your body doesn't respond the way you want it to.
"This is a tough game, especially when you play every day and play center field. You have to rely on your legs a lot. It's tough. ... I hope he gets the surgery taken care of and get everything back to where it used to be."
Span was activated from the DL on Tuesday after being out two months due to back tightness and abdominal issues. He played two games and went 2-for-9 with a run scored. After Thursday's 4-2 victory, Williams hinted that Span could be done for the year.
"We have to make sure we are mindful of him, his back and his hips," Williams said. "So it's unclear right now. I would imagine it's going to be very tough for him to get back."
The Span era could be over in Washington, because he will be a free agent after this season and Michael Taylor is expected to be the starting center fielder next year. It's not known if the Nationals will extend a qualifying offer to Span. But he has been a tremendous leadoff hitter with the Nats, hitting .292 with a .345 on-base percentage in three years with the club.
Teammate Jayson Werth called him the best center fielder he ever played with, and Werth would like to play with him next year.
"I played with some good [center fielders]," Werth said. "Route takes, it's the way he goes about it. Obviously, the performance speaks for itself. He is really good out there. He is a real good center fielder. If he is in center and I'm in the corner, I'm feeling good about it."
den Dekker hit .184 (9-for-49) in 26 games over four separate stints with the Nationals this year.
With Span out, Taylor will be the everyday center fielder, provided that he is healthy. Taylor suffered a right knee contusion after he banged into the wall against the Padres on Thursday. Taylor said he felt much better and could enter Friday's series opener against the Marlins a defensive replacement. Meanwhile, Bryce Harper started in center field, while Werth was in right field and Danny Espinosa started in left.