WASHINGTON (AP) — Even as the Nationals Park crowd rose in an ovation for their just-returned center fielder on Tuesday night, Denard Span knew something was still wrong.
Four days later, the dynamic leadoff man is done for the season, and may have played his final game with Washington.
"That was the best worst feeling ever," said Span of the ovation. "Because the fans were happy that I was back, but deep down I knew that I couldn't give them what I normally can bring to this game and to this ballclub."
Span, a free agent at the end of the season, will undergo a procedure to repair a torn labrum in his left hip on Tuesday, and expects a 4-6 month recovery process.
He has hit .292 with 207 runs scored and 106 RBIs since joining Washington from Minnesota in a trade before the 2013 season.
"I didn't think about it until reading some people's comments on Twitter," Span said. "It has made me sad, because I've enjoyed my three years here. I feel like coming here kind of resurrected my career."
In a Washington season rife with injuries, Span's absence at the top of the lineup has been significant. Entering Saturday, the Nationals are 36-25 (a .590 winning percentage) when Span starts and 28-38 (.424) when he doesn't, according to STATS.
The Nationals began Saturday night's game six games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.
Span returned Tuesday from a 40-game stint on the disabled list, his second of the season, originally caused by persistent back tightness. It then became clear Span had an underlying issue in his hip.
He said he received a cortisone injection in the area shortly after the All-Star break. He then played in a handful of rehab games earlier in August before coming back to the majors.
By Wednesday night, it seemed that return was short-lived.
"Normally when I get two hits, I'm in an upbeat mood, and I just wasn't," he said. "Talking to my Mom, I thought this was best for my future. I need to go ahead and get myself fixed, and go out there and be myself on the field."