KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Jayson Werth’s back spasms are a problem no more, and he’ll start in center field Sunday when the Nationals open their home Grapefruit League season against the Astros at Space Coast Stadium on Sunday, according to the lineup posted Saturday morning.
But questions about Werth’s recovery and his ability to move from right field to center were met with some resistance by manager Davey Johnson before today’s first game of the spring at Osceola County Stadium. Johnson bristled when reporters inquired about Sunday’s lineup and Werth’s availability, and said he wanted to focus on today’s game before worrying about Sunday’s.
“He hasn’t moved to center yet, so you’re a little ahead of yourself,” Johnson said.
Still, it’s clear that Werth’s ability to play center field, his likely position should Bryce Harper crack the 25-man roster and start in right, will be one of the recurring themes of spring training. Werth played 19 games there at the end of last season and has 123 games in center in his nine-year major league career.
“I think if you ask (Werth), he’d say he can do whatever, a full season there or in right,” Johnson said. “I think ... just from last year that he feels like, in center, he has to be 100 percent to get the jumps and get to balls that are more demanding than right. He’ll probably need a little more rest if he was in center.”
Either way, it appears Werth is healthy enough to play in a spring training game, something Johnson didn’t feel so sure about Friday when he hinted that both Werth and first baseman Adam LaRoche, who has been slowed by a mildly sprained left ankle and a sore left shoulder, might not be available this weekend.
But trainers have cleared Werth, who missed Tuesday’s workouts, took treatment for his lower back Wednesday and participated in drills at his own pace later that day and Thursday.
“The training report I had on Werth two days ago was ‘able,’ ” Johnson said.
As for Sunday’s lineup, here it is:
SS - Ian Desmond
2B - Danny Espinosa
3B - Ryan Zimmerman
DH - Michael Morse
CF - Jayson Werth
1B - Mark DeRosa
C -Wilson Ramos
LF - Jason Michaels
RF - Brett Carroll
P - Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg will be followed to the mound by left-hander Tom Gorzelanny and right-handers Ryan Mattheus, Brad Lidge, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.
As expected, LaRoche hasn’t been cleared to play, with DeRosa getting the start at first base, a role he’ll fill against some left-handers in the regular season should he break camp with the Nationals. The Astros are starting lefty J.A. Happ on Sunday.
A familar face: Former Nationals coach Dan Radison, the club’s first base coach under Jim Riggleman until Riggleman’s abrubt resignation in June, was in uniform for the Astros on Saturday. Radison was expected to join the Orioles’ Double-A team in Bowie, Md., as a coach, a move that was reported over the winter, but latched on with the Astros, where he’s a special assistant to general manager Jeff Luhnow, specializing in player development. Radison said he’d be working with all the Houston minor league clubs and spend some time helping out with the major league team