Span trying to battle through foot pain, offensive struggles

PHILADELPHIA - Nationals manager Davey Johnson had a chat with his Phillies counterpart, Charlie Manuel, during the early stages of batting practice today.

The two oldest managers in Major League Baseball had something in common that they could discuss.

“We cried on each other’s shoulders about our offenses,” Johnson quipped.

Asked who did more crying, Johnson said that he did because he’s the older of the two, but really, the fact that the Nats are tied for 28th in the majors in runs scored (compared to 24th for the Phillies) probably had more to do with the higher level of sadness on the Nats’ side of things.

In reality, there probably isn’t too much more Johnson can do at this point to jumpstart the offense. He’s tried plenty over the last couple months.

“I think we’ll be all right,” Johnson said. “I still love the talent on this ballclub. Maybe we’ll just relax and it’ll come out.”

Johnson did a little more lineup tweaking today, putting Jeff Kobernus atop the order in place of Denard Span, who is dealing with a bruised right foot, and having Chris Marrero take over at first base for Adam LaRoche.

LaRoche has been struggling lately, going 0-for-his-last-15, but Johnson said he also just wanted to get the veteran a day off and let Marrero get a few more at-bats. The fact that Marrero provides another right-handed bat in the lineup against the left-handed John Lannan doesn’t hurt either.

As for Span, the Nats’ center fielder fouled another ball off his foot during yesterday’s loss to the Indians, and was sore today when he got to the park. He hopes to be able to return to the lineup tomorrow, but will need to see how he feels after testing the foot a little less than 24 hours from now.

Span has now fouled three balls off his right foot in the last six weeks, a high total for any player. It’s a really high total for a player who says he’s never fouled a ball off to top of his right foot prior to this season.

“Never in 11 years, never done this,” Span said.

So why the high frequency of self-inflicted wounds?

“I mean, I know why it is: My swing right now is not good,” Span said. “That’s honestly what it is. My swing right now isn’t what it normally is. I’m not getting around the ball. Davey said it’s not my swing, it’s my timing. Either way, it’s something to do with my swing. Because I’ve never done this in 25 years. I’ve fouled balls off the side of my foot, but you’re fine to get back in the box. I’ve never squared it off the top of my foot three times.”

Span has a .256/.312/.349 slash line this season, well below his career averages of .281/.353/.385. Asked about Span’s struggles offensively and their possible impact on his foul ball issues, Johnson repeated the message he shared with Span.

“I think his tendency is a lot of our guys’ - we let the ball get too deep,” Johnson said. “And when your timing is off, you let it get too deep, you’re able to hit your foot. The old rule of thumb - hit the ball out in front of the plate.”

Span didn’t want to get too in-depth talking about his inability to get into a zone offensively, but he did say this has been something he’s been battling all season.

“Honestly, I’m a grinder,” Span said. “I’ll find a way to get hits. Whether it’s me doing whatever, I’ll get it figured out. I haven’t felt up to my capabilities swinging-wise all year, but I’m not going to use that as an excuse. You’ve got to come every day with a mentality to work and get to where you want to be. That’s basically it.”

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