Span looks to hit ground running when season starts

Span looks to hit ground running when season starts

VIERA, Fla. -- In his first year with the Nationals, it took leadoff man Denard Span until the second half of the season to find his way at the plate.

This year, Span is more comfortable in his surroundings and is hoping to hit the ground running much earlier at the plate.

"My timing's getting better each day, pitch recognition is getting better each day," Span said before Saturday's game against the Marlins. "I feel like I'm very, very close to where I need to be.

"This year, I'm just looking for consistency. I want to play consistent ball from start to finish, coming out of the gates and just doing what I've always been capable of doing at a high level, playing at a high level and just being the leadoff hitter I know I can be."

Span hit .263 with a .677 OPS in the first half last year after coming over from the Twins in an offseason trade. He bounced back in the second half to hit .302 with a .750 OPS.

The 30-year-old came into Saturday hitting .324 (12-for-37) this spring, with three doubles and a triple. The only curious thing about his performance is that he hadn't drawn a walk, but Span said he hadn't changed his approach at all.

"I've been having some better at-bats as of late and battling my butt off with two strikes, but I just haven't been able to draw a walk," Span said. "I'm hoping the opposite happens when the season starts. Last year, I had [12] walks in Spring Training, and then once the season started, I didn't walk as much as I was on pace for.

"So a lot of it is just me seeing the ball. My timing is almost where it needs to be, so I'm not worried about it too much."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.