VIERA, Fla. (CBSDC) — Denard Span knew there would be an adjustment period for him after coming to the Nationals from the Minnesota Twins last year.
There was a new league, new teammates and new atmosphere but this spring is different. He is much more comfortable in his surroundings having a year under his belt in D.C. and he is ready for what he hopes is a banner year for him and the club.
“It brought me back to my first year in the big leagues,” Span said of the adjustment period. “As far as teams just attacking me, not knowing a lot about me and it took me a little bit of time to make that adjustment. I’m just looking forward to this year and feeding off what I did in the second half of the season.”
What he did last year, after a slow start, was hit .302 after the All Star break, which included a Major League-leading 29 game hitting streak. He posted a .371 average during that time with two homers and nine RBI but importantly, the Nats went 22-7.
“I want to come out this year and be consistent throughout the course of the season and not just for a month or two,” he said. “I look at my season last year and I played superb ball for about a month, month-and-a-half, and this year I want to go out there and prove to everyone that I can do that consistently throughout a whole season.”
Span will again hit leadoff for the Nationals but this year he will do it for a new manager in Matt Williams.
“I think he’s been doing a pretty good job,” Williams said. “He’s made it clear that there is going to a form of accountability but as long as we play hard and just do what we are supposed to do, we won’t have a problem out of him but he does demand accountability and responsibility out of us.”
Span has a career fielding percentage of .993 but last season he was perfect, not committing an error the entire year and yet he didn’t win a Gold Glove, losing out to Carlos Gomez of the Brewers.
“I was very disappointed, but if anything it has motivated me to want to come out and do something more special,” Span said. “I had a good season for myself defensively, but like I said, if anything, it has motivated me even more.
Like anything in baseball, the health of a team in large part determines its success and Span says if the Nationals are going to reach their goals this year, keeping guys off the DL is important.
“If we can stay healthy we will be able to do some special things this season. Heath is important across the board for every team so if we can keep our big boys healthy and on the field, we’ll be fine.”