Span gets fresh start with Nationals

When Denard Span put on his new Washington Nationals jersey for

the first time recently, he couldn’t help but take a look in the

mirror.

Span liked what he saw.

”It even felt good,” he said. ”It felt like my uniform fits a

little better than it fit in Minnesota. It’s probably my waist. I

don’t know if it’s the pants, the material or something, but it

seemed like it hugged my waist a little bit better.

”It was a refreshing feeling, like a new beginning. (I’m) a

little energized.”

The Nationals, who held their first full-squad workout on

Sunday, sent minor league pitcher Alex Meyer to the Twins in

exchange for the 28-year-old Span in November.

Span fills a void the team has long been searching to fill – a

speedy defensive center fielder who can bat at the top of the order

and has a career .357 on-base percentage.

”He helps us on a bunch of different levels, not to mention

that we think he’s a terrific character guy in the clubhouse,”

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. ”He’s going to fit in

here perfectly and be a guy that really is a leader on this

club.”

Nationals manager Davey Johnson met with Span on Sunday to

briefly talk about how much work the outfielder is used to getting

during spring training.

Johnson said one of his biggest concerns this spring is making

sure Span has a chance to play the outfield with Bryce Harper and

Jayson Werth so the trio can get used to each other’s defensive

range, and also work out any communication issues.

Teammates such as Ian Desmond – who spent time in the leadoff

spot last season – have already told Span they’re happy to have him

on the team.

”Just to be here (and fill a need) they’ve been looking for …

I think it’s going to pay off,” Span said. ”I think it’s going to

allow everybody to get where they need to be in the lineup and be

comfortable.

”It’s a good feeling to be somewhere where you’re wanted and

needed.”

Though he is still getting to know his new teammates, Span has

already let it be known he is a big NBA fan, jumping into a

discussion about Michael Jordan on Saturday. He is also the owner

of more than a few Air Jordan shoes.

”There might not be enough fingers in this clubhouse to count

how many I have,” he smiled.

The Nationals were reportedly interested in acquiring Span two

years ago, while he was still trying to recover from a concussion

following a collision with Kansas City catcher Brayan Pena on June

3, 2010.

Span said he was taken by surprise by the rumors two years ago.

When the trade actually happened, not only was he more prepared for

it, but his mother cried.

”She cried tears of joy,” Span said. ”She was just excited

for a new opportunity for me. … She told me she had been praying

for me to get traded to Washington. I think that’s why she was so

emotional. She felt like God had answered her prayers.”

Thanks to yoga, some chiropractic work and a few changes in his

diet, Span says he is past his concussion issues, which he said

were more mentally taxing than anything physical.

Now, he has a new team and a fresh new outlook.

”I’m happy to be here,” he said. ”I’m happy for change. It’s

refreshing to be in a new place, a new place in my life and for a

new opportunity.”

Notes: Cold and windy conditions greeted the Nationals for their

first full-squad workout. The temperature was 41 degrees. Because

of that, the players worked out for just under two hours. …

Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to pitch in the second

round of the World Baseball Classic in Miami, which would give him

three starts for Washington (Feb. 25, March 2 and 7) before he

leaves camp. … The Nationals will throw the first of two live

batting practices sessions on Tuesday. … OF Bryce Harper hit six

balls over the fence during Sunday’s batting practice. … Weather

conditions made it a tough day for both the pitchers and catchers

because the ball was moving all over the place. … The only scary

moment came when RHP Cole Kimball bounced a splitter that hit

catcher Kurt Suzuki in the thigh. … The hard-throwing Kimball,

who tore his right rotator cuff in 2011, has been impressive in his

bullpen sessions so far. ”I think it’s a tribute to him, and as

hard as he’s worked because I think he’s back,” Johnson said.

”He’s certainly got a good future. He’s been throwing the ball

exceptionally well.”