Washington Nationals center fielder Denard Span (2) jogs off the field during batting practice before a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park, Sunday, April 19, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon
April 19, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) Washington Nationals center fielder Denard Span has been activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The return comes earlier than expected for Span, who had surgery to repair a core muscle in early March after a previous procedure to fix a sports hernia injury last December.

''To be honest with you, I didn't think it would be this soon,'' Span said. ''It's been a tough road. A tough six months for me.''

In a corresponding roster move, the Nationals optioned outfielder Michael A. Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse.

Span batted .302 last season while posting career highs with 184 hits and 39 doubles. He scored 94 runs as the Nationals' primary leadoff man.

He went 5 for 12 in three minor league rehab games before rejoining the club and working out at Nationals Park on Saturday.

His return leaves the Nationals now missing just one regular starter, with third baseman Anthony Rendon continuing to rehab from a left MCL sprain.

''It's another really good player that we bring to the lineup,'' Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. ''It lengthens our lineup, and it really makes us a better team.''

At one point, it was thought that Span could have been out until June following his second surgery.

But the center fielder felt confident by the time the Nationals left spring training that he would be back earlier.

''Before spring training ended I was sprinting, I was running pretty good,'' Span said. ''And I started having more good days.''

Taylor hit .271 with eight RBIs in 12 games, but would've seen sparse playing time had he stayed with Washington.

''He's one of our future players and he needs to play every day,'' Rizzo said.''

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