VIERA, Fla. - Jayson Werth met with reporters for the first time this spring today, taking stock of what had happened with the Nationals since they rocked the baseball world last December by giving him a seven-year, $126 million contract. Werth alternated between talking points and frank opinions, saying at one point that he thinks the Nationals are going "to do some things most people think are impossible," and later adding in his view, there's room for improvement with the roster the team has put together.
If there was anything that came out of Werth's press conference, though, it was that he's going to enjoy the challenge of starting over in Washington. He spoke highly of young players like Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, as well as the two pieces who could bring the Nationals more long-term help - Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
"I'm here for quite some time, so it's going to be a building situation," Werth said. "But I think we're going to be there before people realize it."
Other highlights from Werth's gathering with reporters:
* Werth said he talked with manager Jim Riggleman the other day about the Nationals lineup, in which Werth could wind up batting cleanup for the first time in his career. He spent most of his time in Philadelphia hitting second or fifth, and said he is comfortable in any of the first five spots. "I'm open. I don't care," Werth said. "When I played in Los Angeles, I hit second. The year we won the World Series in Philadelphia, I hit second. The last couple years, (Phillies manager) Charlie (Manuel)'s messed around with hitting me third against lefties. It doesn't matter. It's not going to change what I'm going to do."
* Asked if he is worried about whether the hype that goes with his contract will get suffocating, Werth said, "I know the situation I'm in. I chose this situation. There were other suitors and other teams and other deals. This is the one I wanted to be in. I wanted to be in that ground-up situation and be part of something. You build the team from where it was and take it to where I think it's going to go, that's the situation I wanted to be in."
* He spoke highly of Nationals Park, saying he was looking forward to playing in a bigger right field than he had in Philadelphia. "I'll be able to show my range a little bit," Werth said.
* While taking stock of the rest of the Nationals' outfielders, Werth praised the signing of outfielder Rick Ankiel, who could compete for playing time in both left and center field. "Rick Ankiel was a big signing of the offseason, one that wasn't talked about as much as I thought maybe it should have been," Werth said. "He had a bad concussion in St. Louis in '08, I believe, and the last couple years, I think he's been battling some injuries. He seems to be healthy. The guy's a great talent and he's going to be a big help to the team. As spring goes on, I think he'll manage to make a name for himself."
* His impressions of Harper: "He's a big kid, just from meeting him today. He's pretty good-sized for that age (18). Maybe he'll be able to help us sooner rather than later."
I'll have an update from Harper's press conference in a little bit.