Yesterday afternoon during batting practice, Denard Span finished a round and walked out of the cage. Davey Johnson was there waiting for him, ready with the latest piece of advice as Span tinkers with his swing.
This spring, Span is trying to return to the approach he used in 2009, his best season in the majors, when he hit .311/.392/.415 with eight homers – all career bests. “We’re just trying to get him back to being the feel of what he’s looking for,” hitting coach Rick Eckstein said. “There was a feel in ’09 that he had that he kept talking about. We’re really trying to just find that feel.”
The process began this winter, not long after the Nationals traded for him him. Eckstein devoured video of Span’s swing from the course of his career and drove across Florida, from his home in Sanford to Tampa, and met Span.
“He definitely did his homework,” Span said.

In the batting cage in Span’s backyard, Eckstein and Span set about rediscovering his 2009 swing. He had started with his hands in front of his body, which allowed him to “load” more easily – to pull his hands back before the pitch and start his swing. Span also moved to a more crouched stance, putting him into a more ready hitting position.
“The last two days, it’s been feeling good,” Span said.
Johnson helped with his small piece of advice. Outside the cage yesterday, Johnson told Span he had been “striding open.” When he stepped toward the pitch, he pointed his toe at the pitcher rather than keeping his foot square to the mound. The subtle move prevented Span from making solid contact with strikes over the outside half of the plate.