VIERA, Fla. - The whip is coming, and Jayson Werth is ready.
For several days, Nationals manager Davey Johnson has been pulling his regulars aside and telling them that the somewhat leisurely pace that goes along with a seven-week spring training elongated by the World Baseball Classic is about to change drastically.
No more veterans begging off from long bus trips, citing the years they’ve spent and the presence of rookies.
“I’m taking everybody,” said Johnson, who pinpointed Wednesday’s two-hour trek to Jupiter to face the Miami Marlins as the date for the new approach.
“I’m bringing out the whip,” Johnson has said several times.
No more games where guys are going to get an at-bat or two, or a a few innings in the field, then relinquish their spot in the lineup and field to someone whose number is more befitting an offensive lineman than a baseball player.
It started Monday against the Tigers. Werth played eight innings in right field for the first time this spring. Catcher Wilson Ramos, who had major reconstructive surgery on his right knee in May, went seven frames. Center fielder Denard Span, second baseman Danny Espinosa, first baseman Adam LaRoche and shortstop Ian Desmond all played the whole game.
Johnson’s only half-joking about the increased workload, and virtually every field player who will be on the 25-man roster out of camp is heading to Jupiter.
Werth, for one, understands and thinks the timing is about right.
“It is,” he said after Monday’s game. “I think we’re all ready for it. It’s a gentle whip, you know? It should be fine. I think everybody’s in pretty good shape. Davey takes care of his players, which is nice.”
For Werth, the increased workload over the next week or so will tell him a lot about how his surgically repaired left wrist is faring. He said at NatsFest in January that it might take most of this season for it to be 100 percent, and he’s said during spring training that the power is the last thing that will come back in terms of his swing.
Then he went out and launched his first spring training home run Thursday against the Astros, though he isn’t really of the mind that the blast says anything about his wrist.
“I think it’s coming along pretty good,” he said. “I think this next week will be a pretty good test. This next week, I’ll know a lot more.”
One thing Johnson’s whip will definitely help with is forging more familiarity between Werth, new left fielder Bryce Harper and new center fielder Span. One of the reasons Johnson wants his outfielders playing deeper into games as a trio is to help them get used to each other, particularly with two newcomers.
“It takes time,” Werth said. “It’s a feel. You got to get a feel for each other and that takes time. You have to have a ball in between us. ... Even so, just standing out there, getting an idea where each other plays and hearing each other’s voices and stuff like that, it’s good. We’re coming along.”
Update: Roger Bernadina was 1-for-4 last night, but the Netherlands lost to the Dominican Republic in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic in San Francisco. With the Dutch team now eliminated, expect Bernadina to be back with the Nationals within a few days.
Bernadina finished the tournament hitting .208 (3-for-22) with three RBIs in six games.