VIERA, Fla. - Jayson Werth arrived at Space Coast Stadium today, took a look around the Nationals clubhouse and liked what he saw.
Werth talked with reporters for more than 20 minutes this afternoon, covering a wide range of topics. But one of the first things Werth discussed was how talented the Nationals are. Such comments drew a question about whether Werth had even been on a team that was as complete on paper as this Nats squad.
"Has there ever been a team that's this complete on paper?" Werth responded rhetorically. "I'm not really a guy that looks at stuff like that. You look around the room where we're at, who we got, (and) I feel pretty good about it. Then people say, 'You got to stay healthy.' Well, we weren't too healthy last year, and we won as many games as we won last year. We got guys on the bench that are probably ready to play every day somewhere.
"I'd say, top to bottom, you got to feel good about it. But you still got to go out there and play. We got the guys I'm happy to go to war with."
Werth readily admits that he still isn't over the Nationals' loss to the Cardinals in the National League Division Series, and truth be told, he doesn't ever expect to get over it. He doesn't think back to that heartbreaking Game 5 loss on a daily basis now, like he did throughout much of the offseason, but it still nags at him some days.
"There's definitely times that it'll pop into my head and I'll kick something or cuss," he said with a smile. "I'm a baseball player, I've been playing baseball my whole life. I've wanted to do nothing else but play baseball, so like I said, 'World Series or bust', well, no (crap). That's the slogan every year since I was 8 years old. When you get that close and you can taste it and something like that happens, that's going to stick with me. That'll probably stick with me 'til I die.
"That's OK. That's not a big deal. It's the things that drive you. You wake up in the morning pissed off ready to work out because of stuff like that. It's just part of being a ballplayer."
Werth has heard all the discussion about where he'll be slotted in the batting order this year. He's also heard manager Davey Johnson comment that he's going to ask Werth's opinion before putting together his lineup, which makes Werth chuckle a bit. Werth didn't discuss where he thinks he should hit in the order, but did share a few thoughts on how the top of the lineup might break down.
"If (Denard) Span leads off, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to hit Bryce (Harper) second," Werth said. "It probably makes a lot more sense to hit him third. I don't know what Davey's going to do. I don't want to act like I'm saying anything like that. I'm just talking baseball."
The thinking is that if Span (a lefty) hits leadoff, having Harper (another lefty) behind him would disrupt the Nats' potentially perfect left-right-left balance throughout the order. But Werth takes an even deeper look at things when kicking around lineup possibilities in his head.
"Who are our guys who are going to pinch-hit in the ninth-hole?" Werth asked. "Our best pinch-hitter is (Chad) Tracy. So then you've got left-left-left (in the nine, one and two spots). We'll get into this later. For me, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense with our lineup. The possibilities of our lineup are not endless, but we've got some different lineups I think could be effective."
Werth also talked about the Nationals' projected outfield alignment, which has him in right and Harper in left.
"Honestly, for Bryce, the obvious - or natural - progression for him would be to go from center to left, and then left to right as time moves on," said Werth, a former catcher who made the exact same transition after being moved into the outfield. "There's no doubt in my mind he'll be a great right fielder someday. I do feel like he needs to go play left a little bit, learn the position. There's something to be said about (that). He only has been playing the outfield for two years.
"I think he is, right now, a very good outfielder. As time goes on, he will be even better. This could happen fairly quickly. He could progress at a relatively quick rate, like he does everything else. I think it's more up to him than it is me. I'm not standing in his way by any means. When I mess around with him, I always tell him, 'Defensive liabilities play left.' That's where we're at right now."
When we last spoke to Werth, at NatsFest a few weeks ago, he noted that his surgically-repaired left wrist still wasn't at full strength and likely wouldn't be until after the season, given the doctors' estimated 18-month full recovery time. Today, Werth said he feels like he's made progress in the last three weeks, but cautioned that he still isn't the same guy he was last year at this time.
"It's definitely not as strong as it was (before the injury)," Werth said. "I've been hitting. It doesn't bother me. I feel strong. Obviously, the numbers are going to speak for themselves. I definitely didn't have as much power when I came back from the injury as before the injury. I felt like I did a pretty good job. I played at a pretty good level. I expect just to get better."
While making it clear that he knows very little information about what's going on in Major League Baseball's investigation into Biogenesis, the anti-aging clinic that allegedly was distributing performance-enhancing drugs, Werth also shared some thoughts on Gio Gonzalez's link to the clinic and its founder Tony Bosch.
"In my opinion, it doesn't really seem like the type of guy Gio is," Werth said. "I signed in '97, and I was in the big leagues for the first time in 2002. When did they start testing for steroids for the first time, '04? So I've seen a lot of things. I've seen guys, seen people that you would suspect that could be or might be, maybe even know that they are. But I don't really feel like Gio could be a guy like that. I could be wrong. I don't think I am."