WASHINGTON -- As expected, the Nationals reinstated Denard Span from the 7-day concussion disabled list on Saturday, and had him batting leadoff and playing center field against the Cardinals. To make room on their roster, the Nats optioned outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to Triple-A Syracuse.
This was the first day Span was eligible to return after suffering the concussion on April 11, when he collided with Braves second baseman Dan Uggla while running the bases in Atlanta. Span spent the past two days on a rehab assignment for Class A Hagerstown, playing a total of eight innings in center field and going 2-for-4 with three walks.
"It feels good," Span said of being back in Washington. "A couple days in Hagerstown definitely got my appreciation for being here up a few notches, and I'm ready to go."
Span felt fine while taking batting practice with the team while it was in Miami earlier this week, and the rehab assignment only solidified his readiness to return.
The Nationals will hope that this concussion will continue to prove less troublesome for Span than one he suffered while playing for the Twins in 2011. Span ended up missing most of the second half of that season, sitting out about two months initially, then dealing with recurring symptoms once he came back.
"Any time you've got a history of it, and you get hit in the head, it's a concern," Nats manager Matt Williams said. "Hopefully he just doesn't get hit in the head in any regard. Whether it's what happened in Atlanta, or running into a wall or any of that stuff. But he's passed all his tests, he's done all his rehab and he's cleared to go. He's ready. You just don't want anybody to hit their head."
Span, hitting .222 in 10 games this season, said he'll try not to think about the past concussions when he's back on the field. But he does believe this is something that won't linger in the same way.
"I'm definitely more educated, more prepared for this incident as opposed to the incident I had three years ago," he said. "I've got good people around me, good people making sure I take care of myself. I think that's the biggest difference."
While up with the Nats for the first time, Souza went 1-for-4 with a walk in five games. The 24-year-old picked up his first Major League hit on Tuesday at Marlins Park, singling off Miami reliever Dan Jennings.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.