WASHINGTON -- With Denard Span returning from the 7-day disabled list on Saturday, it meant a return to the bench for Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth, who had started the past four games.
Despite the increased playing time, McLouth's early season struggles continued. The 32-year-old, who signed a two-year deal with Washington this winter, went 0-for-13 during his four starts. The veteran is 2-for-26 (.077) overall, with one double and four walks.
Nats manager Matt Williams has noticed McLouth hitting the ball in the air more than usual, such as during the club's games earlier this week at spacious Marlins Park. Indeed, McLouth has hit 57.1 percent of his batted balls in the air this season, according to FanGraphs.com. His career mark is 41.7 percent, including 36.6 percent last season.
"I've seen barrel to baseball, but there's been a lot of fly balls, which is uncommon for him," Williams said. "It's not very characteristic of him.
"He's just working on having his trajectory come down a little bit, because [Marlins Park] is a big park, ours is a big park when it's cold, so he's working at bringing it down a little bit. He works hard every day. He's seeing a lot of pitches, he's barreling the baseball. That's all good. It's a matter of time before it comes."
McLouth, who signed to serve as Washington's fourth outfielder, didn't play much before Span's injury, starting only twice and getting 11 plate appearances. Now, he faces that same scenario again as he tries to get his bat going.
"He's a pro. He knows what he's doing," Williams said. "He prepares every day for whatever opportunity there may be and he understands it. He understands that on any given day, if we've got our regular outfield out there, at-bats are going to be slim. But the other side of that is if we have a hiccup like we just had ... that he can step right in."
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.