In his first game in nearly three months, Jayson Werth went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a nice running catch in center field.
"Like I never missed a step, really," Werth said of his return to the majors. "It was good."
Werth broke his left wrist in a game against the Phillies back on May 6, an injury which required surgery, months of rehab and nine games on a minor league rehab assignment.
On Thursday, he was finally back in the big leagues. Werth ripped a single to left field in his first trip to the plate and then drove in a run with an RBI groundout to the right side in the third inning.
Did it feel special at all, given how long the last few months have been for him as he's tried to work back to this point?
"Not really," Werth said. "I mean, you know, I've been playing. I played in Triple-A and I think the first game I played in Potomac when I first rehabbed, that was kind of surreal because it was back in the minors and I played in that field like in '99 or whatever. That was a little strange. But as far as tonight goes, I felt good and just glad to be back with my guys."
Werth was never going to try to rush back from his rehab assignment just so that he could face the Phillies before they left town. He enjoys playing against his former team and spent some time both before the game and while on the bases during the game chatting with ex-teammates. But this was never a target in his mind.
"It was just a coincidence," he said. "I felt like I was ready. I didn't really see what the point was to continue to play games in the minor leagues. I wasn't getting a whole lot out of it. ... I felt good at the plate and I felt like I could help the team. I felt ready."
The Nationals were ready to have him.
"He's huge," Adam LaRoche said. "You guys know how he is. In this clubhouse, in the field, he's just a leader, a gamer. We saw it last year, regardless of what's going on statistically, he's stealing bases and doing things in the outfield. It's huge having him back in the lineup, in the outfield, back in here. We've been waiting a couple months for this. Yeah, it's great."
Werth got off to a fairly strong start to the season before getting hurt, hitting .276 with a .372 on-base percentage. He was being more aggressive at the plate than last season, a mentality which Davey Johnson tried to instill in his veteran outfielder back in spring training.
Johnson hopes that aggressive approach will carry over now that Werth is back in the lineup.
"This year as compared to last year, he's so much more in attack mode," Johnson said. "He just brings a lot to the ballclub. It's great to have him back. He was playing good, what was it, two-and-a-half months ago in a game against the Phillies when he broke his wrist. (Having him back) just frees up having a stronger bench and a stronger lineup."
Johnson added that he plans to start Werth in center field the first game of Friday's doubleheader, allowing him to face Marlins left-hander Brad Hand. It sounds like Johnson will give Bryce Harper that game off, and then will have Harper in there for the nightcap, while Werth rests.