- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2015

Michael Taylor packed a gray backpack Sunday morning and walked through the tunnel to the home dugout at Nationals Park. He sat on the wooden bench with third base coach Bobby Henley for several minutes, then shook a security guard’s hand as he returned to the clubhouse, and eventually the stadium exit.

Taylor proved himself worthy of a roster spot through the first two weeks of the season but was reassigned to Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday morning to allow starting center fielder Denard Span to return from the disabled list. Span was scheduled to start in center field and bat leadoff in the Washington Nationals’ series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Man, it feels good to be honest with you,” Span said of his return. “I didn’t think it would be this soon. It’s been a tough road, a tough six months for me. But I’m happy to be able to get on the field today and just get back to what I love doing.”

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Span had two surgeries this offseason, the first to repair a sports hernia and the second on an abdominal muscle. He was originally expected to be out four to six weeks before resuming baseball activities, but was back in the lineup one day shy of that six-week mark.

Span’s consistency atop the lineup and defensive prowess in center field will be welcome additions for the Nationals. His return required a corresponding move, however, and unfortunately for Taylor, that meant an early demotion.

“I thought he handled himself brilliantly,” general manager Mike Rizzo. “With some youthful mistakes, but the ability level’s there. The usefulness of putting into a major league setting was there and he took to it very well.”

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Taylor hit .271 in the first 12 games of the season and led all National League rookies with 13 hits and 24 total bases. Though he could have helped the Nationals as a bench player, the team felt it was best for him to return to Syracuse, where he can play every day and receive regular at-bats.

“I had some good at-bats,” Taylor said. “There were some days when it kind of got away from me, but I think that’s normal. Something I’ll continue to work on, being more consistent barreling up balls and things like that.”

Taylor praised Span for his guidance, both recently and throughout spring training. The two players spoke for more than 10 minutes at Taylor’s locker Saturday afternoon, and Span knows that Taylor will be an impact player in the major leagues sooner rather than later.

“He’s made a few bumps, but that’s going to happen. He’s going to be fine,” Span said Saturday. “I think he’s going to be an all-star. Point blank. Period.”

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