“I am looking forward to it,” Werth said. “I really am. It is good to see those guys. The last time I saw all these guys was after the last game we played last year. I haven’t seen some of them since then. There is still a lot of feelings there. We accomplished a lot together. When you go to war with guys, most of them for four straight years, you create some everlasting bonds. It is going to be weird for sure, but I will have to get used to it.”
But now he is in Washington. And he was brought here to turn this team into a winner and be a leader. Is he up to the task?
“Anything I can do to help,” Werth said. “Winning is the big thing. To change a culture in an organization that hasn’t won you are going to have to win. As I have mentioned before, when I came to Philly in 2007 and we played the Mets, it would be 50-50 Mets and Phillies fans. Over the course of three or four years, there are no more Mets fans. To change the culture here it is going to take 25 men going in the same direction and winning ball games.”
In Washington, Werth has taken on several new roles, including a change in the batting lineup. Before the injury to Ryan Zimmerman, Werth had been batting out of the No. 2 hole. He is perfectly fine in that role with the Nationals.
“It is more of an organizational thing,” Werth said. “We have a lot of young talent (but) not a whole lot of experience. To put both those kids at the top of the order right off the bat is just (not) something everyone felt better about. (So they) put one at the top and one at the bottom (of the order) and see what makes sense as we go.”
“Essentially, you are taking 3-4-5 and moving it up to 2-3-4. (Danny) Espinosa is swinging the bat well. He is coming along. As a player he is maturing at a pretty quick rate. With him and Desmond at the top of the order, you can move me to third, whatever Jim (Riggleman) wants to do. It was the right thing to do for the team.”
Werth is also a bigger focus in the Nationals’ marketing, evidenced by the huge picture poster on the left field parking garage of his likeness taking a mighty swing. The Philadelphia media asked Werth if he had noticed this picture at Nationals Park.
“It is a big picture,” Werth said. “I was surprised to see a picture of myself that big. I remember when I played in Los Angeles, down the foul lines in the parking lot, you could see these huge pictures of J.D. Drew and Jeff Kemp. I remember telling myself that one day that was going to be me. So here I am.”
He does not seem to mind the extra attention and the responsibility that it brings in D.C. But it is certainly a different feeling than he had while with the Phillies.
“Over there you kind of blend in because there is always someone else,” Werth said. “Here, they have had (Ryan) Zimmerman for a long time, he has kind of played that role. (But now) having me here kind of takes the pressure off him a little bit. It helps him out. (To me), it is not that big a deal.”
It has only been a week and a half into the season, but Werth can see a difference in the dugout with the Nationals.
“We have got a better mix of guys in here now,” Werth said. “If you ask guys that have been here the feel of the clubhouse and the chemistry is a lot better than what it has been in the past. That is a good sign and is promising. I think that moving forward that is definitely going to help.”
However, even with the change in attitude, you still have to win. Werth says the team felt like they could have won a few more games during its recent swing through Miami and New York City.
“But we haven’t been playing that good of baseball. We are 4-5 and we could very easily be 7-2 or better. We have had some chances to win some games and we haven’t. We have been pitching well, but we haven’t really been able to get the hit to get it going. Hopefully, we can get moving. With Zimmerman out that is a big loss to the lineup, but we are going to have to pick it up and do whatever we can.”