MIAMI -- Monday night was Denard Span's sixth time wearing a nameless No. 42 jersey on April 15, Major League Baseball's annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day. That didn't mean he was looking forward to it any less.
"You look out on the field, and everybody has 42 on with no last name. It's just a special moment and a special day for baseball," Span said before the Nationals' series opener against the Marlins. "And not just baseball -- I think just for the United States as a whole, because he broke so many barriers, period, in baseball and other walks of life. He's definitely a figure that should be celebrated forever."
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Robinson was celebrated everywhere across baseball on Monday night, including Marlins Park. In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute. On this night, however, Washington's players and on-field staff all donned the No. 42 jerseys, as did the Marlins, before they took the field. And as will every other Major League club, the Nationals will sign one of the jerseys and auction it at MLB.com, with proceeds benefiting the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Robinson's accomplishments in breaking baseball's color barrier were not lost on the Nationals, nor were the character and mental toughness he displayed in enduring the criticism and doubts he faced in doing so. Span noted that as much as we celebrate Robinson's accomplishments and what he meant for baseball, we might still underestimate how much of an impact he had on the U.S. as a whole.
"However you want to say it, he broke a lot of barriers," Span said. "I think he was the first African-American or dark-skinned man that was pretty much put on that stage to do the things he did. It took a strong individual to endure what he endured. He's definitely a special man in my book."
Span has yet to see the movie "42," based on Robinson's life, though he hopes to do so on the Nationals' off-day on Thursday. But he hardly needs a movie to appreciate all that Robinson accomplished and made possible for him and so many others across the game.
"It's kind of hard to put into words, really. Just so many thoughts come to my mind just about what he had to go through," he said. "It just means that I'm lucky to be here today to be able to wear the uniform and have the opportunities I have today, all because of what he stood for and what he went through back then. It's just a special day."
LaRoche sits to make room for Moore
MIAMI -- Adam LaRoche was out of the lineup for Monday's series opener against the Marlins, but it didn't have anything to do with his sore back or any other injury. In fact, he said, he's feeling better than he has in a while. And he'll be back in the lineup on Tuesday night.
Manager Davey Johnson told LaRoche earlier on Monday that he would have the night off in order for 26-year-old Tyler Moore to get a start and a few at-bats. A member of Washington's extremely deep bench, Moore entered Monday with only eight plate appearances and had yet to get on base this season.
But Moore made an impact with his first at-bat, connecting on a two-run single off Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc in the first inning, and he drove in another run on a double in his second at-bat. He finished the night 2-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored, giving him a much-needed confidence boost as he returns to his reserve role until called on again.
"I was a little surprised when I saw my name in the lineup today, but that's why Davey is so good of a manager," Moore said after the Nationals' 10-3 win. "He's loyal to his players, he believes in them, and he gave me an opportunity today. I was just glad to get the start and get some knocks out of the way.
"I think the hardest job is being a pinch-hitter. Every time you get a start, you try to value that. It just makes you calmer, because you're getting three at-bats. It makes you able to calm down. I was able to do that today. and it paid off. ... Now I can go back in my role and have confidence in doing it instead of kind of wondering."
The Nationals knew that playing time would be an issue given the amount of talent on the bench. That comes with the territory when players who would be in many teams' everyday lineups are relegated to reserve roles. Johnson had a chance to play two of his bench players on Monday night, with Steve Lombardozzi starting at second base in place of the injured Danny Espinosa. And Lombardozzi did his part as well, going 2-for-5 with an RBI double.
"We have unbelievable depth, and our team is built for the long haul. We can lose a guy and fill it in with an equally talented player, which is great," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I think if you're trying to build an organization and kind of build for the future, that's what you've got to do."
LaRoche stressed before the game that he wants to play every day he's capable of doing so, but he also understands Johnson's predicament.
"I'm going to state my point and let him make the final decision and respect that. I certainly understand that T-Mo needs at-bats, and we've got to get guys in there," LaRoche said. "That's the only unfortunate thing about having bench guys that should be playing every day on most clubs.
"This is no time to be selfish. The guy needs to get some at-bats. It's tough being that young and coming off the bench, getting one at-bat every other night. As much as I want to play, I understand where the team is coming from."
Though bruised, Espinosa hopes to return this week
MIAMI -- Second baseman Danny Espinosa, sidelined with a bruised right hand, said on Monday that he hopes to be back on the field as soon as he can -- ideally for Wednesday's series finale in Miami or, at the latest, on Friday against the Mets in New York.
Espinosa's hand and forearm were still bruised, swollen and stiff on Monday afternoon, and he planned to spend the rest of the day shuttling in and out of the trainer's room for ice and treatment. He said there are no plans for him to undergo any further tests after Sunday's X-rays, which revealed no structural damage.
"The swelling has increased so much that everything has got extremely stiff," Espinosa said. "The bruising is starting to settle ... all over my forearm and in my hand. The grip strength on my two fingers is a little weak -- not weak, it's stiff. It's really stiff. It's sore, but I would say that the swelling is what's making it hurt so bad."
Espinosa figures he won't be ready to play on Tuesday night but is at least hoping to be back in the lineup on Wednesday night. If not, he can let the swelling subside for four days -- including Thursday's off-day -- before taking the field on Friday night at Citi Field.
Asked if a return on Wednesday or Friday is reasonable, manager Davey Johnson replied, "He's a tough kid."
"He's kind of black and blue. A pretty big portion of his throwing hand is banged up," Johnson added. "Probably day to day, but it doesn't look too good. Nothing structurally [damaged], bone-wise, so he's fine there."