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Span welcomes chance to mentor Taylor

Nationals veteran has much advice to give to potential replacement in center field
MLB.com @WashingNats

WASHINGTON -- Nationals center fielder Denard Span is comfortable in his own skin. He's not merely comfortable at the plate, where he has 16 hits in his last 49 at-bats (.410) over a nine-game stretch.

Span is in line to enter free agency after the season, and he is willing to help fellow Nats outfielder Michael Taylor at all costs. Taylor, it turns out, is expected to take Span's job next year, but that doesn't matter to the 31-year-old, who remembers when Torii Hunter took him under his wing and showed him the ropes when Span was a rookie coming up with the Twins.

WASHINGTON -- Nationals center fielder Denard Span is comfortable in his own skin. He's not merely comfortable at the plate, where he has 16 hits in his last 49 at-bats (.410) over a nine-game stretch.

Span is in line to enter free agency after the season, and he is willing to help fellow Nats outfielder Michael Taylor at all costs. Taylor, it turns out, is expected to take Span's job next year, but that doesn't matter to the 31-year-old, who remembers when Torii Hunter took him under his wing and showed him the ropes when Span was a rookie coming up with the Twins.

"It started with me being a young guy in Minnesota," Span said. "I looked up to Torii Hunter. He was my hero. There were a lot of things he did for me, the little things that meant big things to me as a kid. One of the things he told me was, 'Help the next young man coming up -- go the extra mile.' That always stuck with me."

Span tries to go the extra mile for Taylor, a humble and quiet kid. Span says Taylor's work ethic is second to none.

The biggest advice Span gave Taylor was how to go about his business before a game, like working out in the weight room and taking batting practice seriously. To Taylor, that's just as important as his performance on the field.

Video: Must C Clutch: Taylor's go-ahead grand slam in 9th

"He has been helping me by leading by example," Taylor said of Span. "He has given me advice here and there."

Taylor doesn't want to think about replacing Span, but it seems Span is prepared for that possibility.

"He isn't taking my job; I'm going to be a free agent," Span said. "Like I told him, 'I want you to do well.' He has earned it. He has put in the time in the Minor Leagues. He has come up here and shown he can play. I said, 'Look, there isn't any animosity. I want to see you succeed as well as I want to see myself succeed.' I want him to be the center fielder for the Washington Nationals next year. I don't want him to fall on his face. I want us both to do well. We both can move on and do good things."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, Denard Span, Michael Taylor