Werth set to play tomorrow, Mattheus cleared to start throwing (M. Gonzalez note)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Jayson Werth’s spring debut might have been bumped back a few days, but he’s now scheduled to appear in his first Grapefruit League contest tomorrow against the Mets.

Werth was originally scheduled to start in right field for the Nationals on Sunday, but he was scratched from the lineup due to a right biceps strain. Manager Matt Williams said today that Werth has progressed over the last couple of days, and is expected to be in the starting lineup for tomorrow’s game.

“Should be good to go,” Williams said. “He’s going to go through a full workout today to make sure, but he’s scheduled for tomorrow.”

Reliever Ryan Mattheus, meanwhile, said this morning that he’s been cleared by doctors to begin doing some throwing. Mattheus has been held out of workouts for the last two weeks since feeling pain in his chest after his second bullpen session of spring.

Mattheus was diagnosed with costochondritis, which is inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the breastbone, and has been limited to some cardio work and light tosses of a weighted ball against a trampoline for the last few days. The Nats will continue to bring him along slowly as he takes this next step and starts doing some throwing.

Some teams follow the mantra that for every week that pitchers miss due to injury, they need to spend a week rehabbing before getting to face hitters again. Williams doesn’t want to put any time of timetable on Mattheus’ rehab program at this point, however.

“He’s got to get through his throwing program first,” Williams said. “So, cleared to throw, he’ll do that. Monitor, make sure there’s no issues, then progress to the bullpen, progress into hitters. I think it’s a moving target, because we just don’t know how he’s going to feel after that. Being shut down for a couple weeks in and of itself puts him behind the eight-ball a little bit. So (see) how he does and how he progresses and go from there. Timetable-wise, you just don’t know.”

With less than a month now sitting between us and opening day, Mattheus’ injury might have put his chances of breaking camp with the Nats in jeopardy. He’ll need to build up his arm strength and appear in at least a few exhibition games before being regular season-ready, which is certainly possible if he comes along as he hopes over the next few weeks.

Williams noted that the rehab process isn’t as long for relievers as it is for starters because of the limited workload most relievers handle, which works in Mattheus’ favor as he tries to get back into game shape. But as far as opening day goes, Mattheus is still working against a fairly tight timetable, especially if he suffers any kind of setback.

“At some point, you run out of time,” Williams said. “Again, he’s progressing with all the things he’s progressed with. We’ll see how he comes out of each session and make that decision from there. But again, relievers have limited innings in spring training anyway, so just need to see where he’s at and see how he does. Make that decision when the time’s appropriate.”

Sticking on the injury topic, Bryce Harper has been dealing with flu-like symptoms the last couple days, but he’s in the Nats lineup today, batting third and playing left field.

“He hit yesterday, didn’t do a whole lot yesterday defensively, but he got some BP done,” Williams said. “Feels fine today, so he’s good.”

Infielder/outfielder Jeff Kobernus was scheduled to come on today’s trip to Tradition Field, but he was held back with what Williams called “stomach issues.” Sounds like a similar type of deal to what Harper has been dealing with recently.

In addition, Williams was asked about the Nats’ addition of left-handed reliever Michael Gonzalez, who signed a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training this morning.

The Nats hope that Gonzalez will be able to report to camp tomorrow, although various travel issues could always throw that off. Williams will add the left-hander’s name to a lengthy list of bullpen candidates this spring.

“Standing on the other side of the diamond, veteran guy, certainly has been around the block a time or two,” Williams said. “Knows how to get lefties out. He’s here on a minor league deal with the idea that he’ll compete. It’s a little bit late in the game. He told us that he’s been throwing, that he’s ready to go. We’ll see when he gets here what, in fact, he’s done and where he’s at, but he’ll be able to compete for a spot in the bullpen.”

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