Werth campaigning to lead off upon his return (plus Strasburg, Harper notes)

Jayson Werth is back with Single-A Potomac as his rehab assignment appears to be entering its final stage. Werth will play center field and hit leadoff for the P-Nats tonight.

He might want to get used to the leadoff spot before rejoining the Nationals, as there’s a chance Davey Johnson will slot him there once he’s back in the majors a few days from now.

“I’ve talked to him about leading off,” Johnson said. “He normally was hitting, I think, last year, was hitting fifth. But he might be coming back probably hitting sixth. Sixth or first.”

Hitting leadoff is actually an idea Johnson says Werth is open to. The veteran outfielder has hit just .222 out of the leadoff spot over his career, and of all the spots in the order, his on-base percentage is at its lowest (.323) when he is atop the order. But according to Johnson, Werth has pushed for the leadoff spot.

“He has all the history,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘Well, we had our longest win streak in Philadelphia when I was leading off and playing center.’”

Johnson’s response: “I said, ‘A 6-foot-6 donkey wants to lead off?’ “

The Nationals’ skipper reiterated that Werth and Bryce Harper will rotate in center field, with the other playing in right. Michael Morse would occupy left field on a full-time basis once Werth returns.

“Center field takes more out of you,” Johnson said. “And (Werth and Harper) both would need rest. So, I’d just go by whoever needed the most rest. But last year, I played Werth out there in anticipation we might need him out there. He did a good job.”

Meanwhile, after notching another hit last night, Stephen Strasburg now is batting .333 this season, with five of his 11 hits for extra-bases.

Given Strasburg’s proficiency in the box, would Johnson ever think about using his ace as a pinch-hitter on days he doesn’t start if he needs another bat?

“I’ve thought about it, but when I think of the way he runs the bases, I might need a baserunner,” Johnson said with a smile. “He’d probably like it. But that’s kind of like, what happened if my last catcher got hurt? Would I catch the kid (Harper)? It’s kind of the same kind of question. No. So I probably won’t hit Stras. I don’t want nothing to happen to him hitting when he ain’t pitching. But I’ve thought about it.”

Johnson then added that Mark DeRosa, not Harper, would be the guy he turned to if he needed an emergency catcher. But that’s not because Harper doesn’t long for a chance to get back behind the plate again.

The 19-year-old, who came up as a catcher before being turned into an outfielder by the Nats, was wearing a catcher’s mitt when warming up on the field this afternoon, and he’s also joined the catchers to take some throws down to second base a couple times this season.

“Oh, he wants to put it on,” Johnson said. “I think it was in Milwaukee, I was walking out of the clubhouse and there he was, squatting down with that full gear on. I just kept walking, I didn’t want to know.

“But no, I’m not going there.”

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