WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Leadoff hitters, man. They are vital to winning a playoff series and they are sometimes impractical to find. Just ask the Washington Nationals.
Brad Wilkerson. Christian Guzman. Nyjer Morgan. All were slightly below average playersplaguingthe top of the Nationals lineup. Other sluggers like Ian Desmond, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth were doled with the responsibility of hitting first -- all uncomfortable fits.The latter three all earned passable grades, but they weren't ideal solutions for an almost decade long problem.
Meet Denard Span, the leadoff hitter Nats general manager Mike Rizzo has been linked to pursuing for several seasons. The29-year-old is ready to be a key ingredient to finally bring some hardware home to the nation's capital.Expecting 30 steals and a .290 batting average from a leadoff hitter is something Washington has never been able to count on. Until now.
Q: What's the best and worst part about spring training?
Denard Span: Oh man, there ain't no best (laughs). You know I'm lying. The best was getting to know all my teammates, getting to Viera and putting on the Nationals uniform for the first time. I don't think we have enough time for the worst. Six weeks was just too long. That's probably two or three weeks too long. And Viera was not like being in Miami or New York City. It got a little monotonous at times. But we made the best of it and we're ready to go.
Q: When you see Sports Illustrated, Baseball Tonight, etc. picking the Nationals to win the World Series, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Denard Span: Not to get ahead of ourselves. We still have a lot of work to do. We can't get caught up in that. That's great that a lot of people are picking us to win, but we know what we have to do.
Q: Your thoughts on the word Natitude?
Denard Span: Natitude (laughs). I'm still learning that. Supposedly I will know on opening day what Natitude really means. I've been hearing a lot about it on Twitter and seeing it around town. I'm looking forward to seeing what Natitude is on Monday.
Q: Do any of your teammates ever bring up the collapse from last season, or is that sort of not spoken about at all?
Denard Span: Not really. Nothing really needs to be said. I've heard a few stories...of a few guys, but, nothing extensive.