- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Denard Span has a habit of making difficult plays in center field look relatively routine, in some cases because he prefers not to dive headfirst.

So when Span sprawled out to make a diving catch on the warning track in the third inning Tuesday night, slamming his right knee on the ground and careening into the wall, it was equal parts surprising and concerning for Nationals manager Matt Williams. Span jogged slowly back to the dugout and was lifted from the game in the bottom of the inning. Michael Taylor took over in center.

After Washington’s 4-2 victory over the New York Mets, Williams said Span scraped his knee on the catch and was removed from the game as a precaution. Span said he would likely not be in Wednesday’s lineup but is not worried about the injury.

“It’s too soon. We’ll see,” he said. “If a couple of days go by and it doesn’t feel good, then I will be [worried]. I think being able to walk and put pressure on it, that’s a good sign to me.”

Williams said it was his decision to take Span out of the game. He was due to bat second in the bottom of the third.

“It was sore coming off the field,” Williams said. “That’s why it took him so long to get off. So we just didn’t want to take any chances. Get him in here, get some ice on it, get him cleaned up.”

The Nationals secured the National League East title last week and have little to gain in the final week of the season beyond playoff positioning and momentum. Williams has given several starters days off, and starting pitchers have been given a shorter leash. But Span said he hasn’t allowed the team’s circumstances to alter his play.

“It doesn’t enter my mind,” he said. “When you’re out there and a ball like that or a play like that happens, your initial instinct is to be aggressive and go after it. When you go half-speed, that’s when something worse happens. That’s just how I play the game.”

Span has never had a knee injury like this, so he doesn’t have anything to which he can compare it. He plans to ice and rest the knee, which will then be reevaluated by a team doctor in a few days.

Williams suspects his center fielder will be fine, but Tuesday night did give him a bit of a scare.

“I wasn’t concerned with him hitting the wall. The way he went down was concerning,” Williams said. “But they’re going to play. You can’t play any differently. You have to go get it. You have to dive. You have to go in and break up two. All of those things. Like the way we’ve been playing all year. We can’t change now.”

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