4/15/2014 8:15 P.M. ET
Jackie Robinson Day conjures memories for Gonzalez
By Christina De Nicola / Special to MLB.com
MIAMI -- Hours before first pitch, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez tweeted a photo of his No. 42 jersey to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day, which is being celebrated league-wide for the third straight year.
"I was a kid playing in the backyard with broken glass, garbage all over the place, rocks, grabbing a bunch of neighborhood kids and just having fun," Gonzalez said. "Just thinking about it -- it's Jackie Robinson -- the best player to ever walk this earth to represent each one of us.
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"When you see it from my perspective as a young kid from Hialeah, Fla., who grew up with nothing, getting to represent a Major League team wearing the most remarkable number in baseball just says it all."
Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Outfielder Denard Span, who is on the seven-day concussion disabled list, would always tell his managers he had to play on the day honoring the six-time All-Star "no matter what."
"It means a lot to me. I'm kind of sad that I'm not going to be on the field playing this day," Span said. "I always look forward to this day. It's a special day not just for African-Americans or minorities. I think it's a special day for the game of baseball and society in general. It shows how far this nation has come, for everybody to be able to come together and not only play a game, and enjoy life together."
Brooklyn won six pennants in Robinson's 10 seasons. He was named National League Most Valuable Player in 1949 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
"The thing that strikes me about it is we all wear the same number, and that's great, but what it signifies to me is we're all the same," manager Matt Williams said. "That's what he wanted. We're all ballplayers, we all do the same thing and all he wanted to be is one of those guys."
Span eyeing Saturday return from concussion
MIAMI -- Nationals center fielder Denard Span continues to make progress in his recovery from a concussion and eyes a return on Saturday.
Span, who is currently on the seven-day disabled list, took swings before and during batting practice on Monday. Doctors checked on him afterward. He planned to do the same on Tuesday.
"I felt pretty good," Span said. "Today I feel even better. Feel better today so far than I did yesterday, so that's a good sign."
A decision was made by game's end that Span would fly ahead of the club to Washington on Wednesday morning for a checkup. The plan would call for him to play in a couple of rehab games leading up to Saturday.
Since colliding with Braves second baseman Dan Uggla while running the bases last Friday, Span has seen a chiropractor, who has adjusted his neck. He has also tried to rest as much as possible.
Span sustained a concussion in 2011 as a member of the Twins. He scored higher on Monday's test than he did during his baseline examination in 2008.
"It just shows how far along I've come since 2011 to now," Span said. "Even after having a collision like I did three days ago to be feeling as good as I am today. It just shows all the hard work I've done over the years to get to this point."
Leon getting more time behind plate
MIAMI -- When Wilson Ramos went on the disabled list to open the season, Jose Lobaton took over the starting catcher duties.
Sandy Leon, however, has started four of the past six games. That tops his total of two appearances last season. He is just 15 plate appearances shy of his career-high 36 from 2012.
Manager Matt Williams plans on deciding who catches on a day-to-day basis, but given recent history chose Leon as the backstop for the second game at Marlins Park.
"It varies depending on who we're playing and how they're doing," Williams said. "Yesterday, Sandy had a really nice game. Last time out with [Stephen Strasburg] he handled him well, Stras threw the ball good."
Leon, who entered Monday's game batting .067, connected on an 87-mph sinker from Marlins right-hander Kevin Slowey for his first career home run.
The two-out, two-run liner to right bounced off the top of the wall in the seventh inning. He also singled to right in his first at-bat in the second. After the game, he got the ball from a little kid who had retrieved it. Leon plans on giving it to his father.
After opening the season hitless in his first three games, Leon has gone 3-for-9 with two runs, three RBIs and just one strikeout.
"The more you play, the more you feel better," Leon said. "You see more pitches, you play almost three or four times a week. As a hitter, that's really good to get timing."
• Bryce Harper was in the lineup batting second and starting in left field for Tuesday night's game against the Marlins. Harper exited Monday's game in the bottom of the seventh inning with a tight quad.
• Nate McLouth also returned to center and hit seventh in the order after receiving treatment and taking batting practice the past two days.
McLouth was a late scratch for Sunday's game with patellar tendinitis in his left knee. He had stepped wrong and it "fired up pretty good" during batting practice.
"There's a lot of ground to cover," McLouth said about Marlins Park. "We took batting practice early this afternoon and I was running around, and it felt pretty good. I'm pretty confident."
• Tests confirmed that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's thumb would not require surgery. The timetable for his return remains 4-to-6 weeks.
"The bone is in place. It's fractured, but it's in place," Williams said. "That's a good thing, that there's no surgery or invasive things that need to be done. So he's just healing up. Bones take time."
• Catcher Wilson Ramos had the stitches taken out of his left hand, starting the rehabilitation process following surgery to remove the hamate bone. Ramos has been working on his fitness at home to stay in shape.
"All indications are he's well on the road to recovery," Williams said.
• Right-hander Doug Fister, who threw 50 pitches in a bullpen session on Monday, will not throw in a simulated game until the club returns to Washington.
"Heavy dose he got yesterday, it'll be a couple days before he does anything anyway," Williams said.
Christina De Nicola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.