After going 3-for-4 with a three-run home run in last night’s 9-0 win over the Miami Marlins, right fielder Jayson Werth has a .329/.406/.540 line with 13 doubles and 21 home runs in 101 games and 411 plate appearances in the third year of his seven-year deal with the Nationals. Since returning from a disabled list stint June 4, the 34-year-old outfielder has a .355/.441/.595 line with 11 doubles and 17 home runs in 74 games and 304 plate appearances.
The 11-year veteran, to the surprise of some, is on pace for his best season yet in the nation’s capital. Nationals manager Davey Johnson liked what he saw from the veteran slugger from the start.
After a 2-for-4 night early in April which saw Werth hit his third home run of the year, Johnson talked to reporters about his outfielder being locked in from the beginning of spring training this season.
“By and large, most of the spring he was feeling really good,” Johnson told reporters. “I liked his approach. Sometimes you go through a game here and there early, but obviously his wrist is not bothering him, because he’s crushed some balls and that’s a good sign. But I like his approach. He’s a tough out.”
The wrist, which Werth broke on a sliding play in the outfield early in 2012, sapped him of some strength. But nearly a year later, it appeared the power was returning.
“His wrist is feeling good and he’s being more aggressive and I like that,” Johnson explained. “He’ll get his walks, I’m not worried about that. And he’s got good hand-eye coordination, he puts the bat on the ball - I don’t care what you throw him - breaking ball or whatever. He’s going to put it in play.”
While the Nationals skipper has worked with several of Werth’s teammates to help refine their approaches at the plate, he admitted that Werth was doing this on his own. “He’s on his own path,” the 70-year-old skipper laughed.
Whatever adjustments Werth made after his first two seasons in D.C., the results have been impressive. A DL stint for a hamstring injury cost him over a month in early in the season, but upon returning, he remained locked in at the plate. He’s not the only one going now. The Nationals offense, which Johnson has waited for all season, is finally starting to come around. Johnson saw it coming a few weeks back and said it was Werth leading the charge.
“I sense that we’re, overall as a team, we’re a little more aggressive trom top to bottom and that’s always been the key I think here,” he said after a win over Werth’s former employer, the Phillies, earlier this month. “And the guy that’s most aggressive, any time in the count now, and prides himself on taking a lot of pitches, is Jayson Werth. I mean, he’s hit first pitches and smoked them, but he’s been kind of a shining example of how we need to hit.”
As for what’s changed in Werth’s approach since his first two seasons in the nation’s capital, which saw him post a combined .256/.349/.407 line, Johnson explained that it’s a combination of finally being healthy and breaking what the manager saw as some bad habits.
“I know he had some left wrist problems and right wrist problems,” the manager said, “but in 2011, he was strictly right field. I mean, even balls in on him he would serve them to right and we talked after the 2011 season about going home and getting in better position, getting stronger and coming back and he did and 2012, a much better year and this year, he had a little setback with the injury, but his approach has been pretty much from day one of spring training. And he’s a veteran hitter and knows what he’s looking for up there.”
The Nats offense as a whole is finally firing on all cylinders as Johnson told reporters after last night’s win.
“I was glad to see (Ryan Zimmerman) have a big night,” Johnson said. “He got three hits. That was big. And Werth is on fire. And it looks like (Bryce Harper) is kind of warming up and (Ian Desmond) has been doing it all year. So now is the time. We’ve been slow coming together. But now is the time to do it.”
Fans in the nation’s capital are just hoping it’s not too late.
Patrick Reddington blogs about the Nationals for href="http://www.federalbaseball.com/"target="_new">Federal Baseball and appears here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.