Span excited and emotional about move to the Nationals (updated)

Newly acquired Nationals outfielder Denard Span is excited to be coming to D.C. after hearing the news he had been traded to the Nationals from the Minnesota Twins.

“Yeah, most definitely, most definitely, man,” Span said when reached by phone after the trade was announced. “My initial reaction as I talked to (Twins) general manager Terry Ryan. At first, when he told me it was definitely sad news. I have been with the Twins for 10 years. Everything I know about the game came from them.

“Once I got over that and realized I was coming to Washington a big smile came over my face. You guys already had a good team there and talking to (Mike) Rizzo he put a little pep in my step. Because he was telling me you guys wanted me and needed me and I am definitely ready to meet everybody and get going.”

Span has long been rumored to be a target of Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, and has been aware of the Nats’ interest. He said it’s good to be going to a team that’s been trying to acquire him.

“It is,” he said. “That is definitely a good feeling when you are wanted and needed and Rizzo told me he has been watching me and a fan of my game. He appreciates what I do.”

The concussion problems and shoulder injury that have troubled Span over the past couple of years are behind him, he said.

Span hit .283 with four homers, 41 RBIs and 17 steals in 128 games in 2013. He’s a career .284 hitter in five major league seasons - all with the Twins.

“I felt good (last year),” Span said. “It started off - I don’t want to say slow for me, but once I was able to get out there I felt normal and I was pretty much able to play a lot of games last year. I had banged my shoulder up but I played in a lot of games and I felt good to get back out there.”

Later, in a teleconference with the Washington media, Span said going through the concussion was a difficult time, especially trade talks swirling around him.

“It was probably one of the hardest things that I had to go through,” Span said. “Listening to trade talks and going through a concussion wasn’t easy for me, but fast forward to today and I am definitely ready.”

Span has played with Wilson Ramos when he was with the Twins. He has met Ryan Zimmerman and knows Tyler Clippard from his adopted hometown of Tampa, Fla.

Describing his game, Span said he goes all out on every play.

“I definitely believe that I am a grinder,” Span said. “I love to have fun. I try to bring my A-game every game. I am definitely going to bring a lot of range in the outfield, I love to go get it.

“I thrive on being one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. I love setting the tone. I love starting the game and taking pitches and trying to give my teammates the best look they can. I try to get on base.”

Any he says he still believes he can get better at stealing bases next season. Span stole 17 bases last season, was caught six times, and has 90 thefts in his career.

“Stealing bases is still a work in progress,” Span said. “I am still trying to up that and I am not going to stop working until I do that.”

Span said he felt that he has improved since his time in the minors as a leadoff hitter and has benefited defensively from his time with the Twins.

“(I have just been) learning how to be a good leadoff hitter and be a good outfielder. I had a great outfield coach (Jerry White) in Minnesota, he trained Torii Hunter and he helped me become a pretty decent outfielder,” Span said.

Span is also excited about getting the chance to play at Nationals Park and knows about how the D.C. fans have reacted to their relatively new baseball team.

“The fan base rallied behind the team last year,” Span said. “I am definitely excited to call D.C. my home.”

Span was born in D.C. Span said his mom, Wanda Wilson, went to school here (he believes at the University of the District of Columbia), while his uncle lived in D.C. for more than 20 years. Wilson lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Span was born while she was visiting family friends in Washington.

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