It’s too early in the season to read too much into any series the Nationals play, but it’s safe to say that the one they’ll open Tuesday night with the Phillies will be special. Sure, it’ll be more emotional for Jayson Werth when the Nationals make their first appearance in Philadelphia during the first week of May, but for the first time since he became a National, Werth will have to face his old teammates Tuesday night.
We’ll have a full story on this topic up on the site a little while later today, but I wanted to share with you some reaction that didn’t make it into the print edition.
“When you spend a good portion of your major league career in one place,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, “and you get some great milestones like he has over there, I think every time you go back or your play your former team it’s a little more special than your run-of-the-mill game.”
Werth’s reception should be interesting. The Philadelphia fans generally travel very well to Nationals Park and while some may lean towards Werth being booed by his former fans, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, for one, doesn’t think that’ll happen.
“Fans loved him,” Howard told reporters this weekend. “We get a pretty big fan following in Washington and they’ll probably be respectful of the situation. I think he’ll probably get more cheers than boos because fans will look at what he did in Philly and they’ll remember that.”
I’m sure there will be more build up to this than anything that may actually play out, but here are some quotes from both sides about how different this week will be:
Ryan Howard, Phillies first baseman: “Initially, yeah, it’s going to be weird. When you’ve shared the same field with a guy and gone through different things — we won a World Series together. To see him in a different uniform, playing against you now, it’s definitely going to be weird.”
“I shot him a text (after he signed with Washington). Understanding what it’s like going through the negotiation process. It’s one of those things, the business aspect. You get to that point in your career and you kind of have to look out for yourself and your family and make the best move. Him going to Washington, for him, the best move to make to make sure his family was safe and secure.”
“(The bond) will always live on. You win a championship together, that’s always going to live on. No one can take that from you. No matter what happens in any of the rest of our careers, all of us from that team will have that moment.”
Werth: “If I see something on SportsCenter or a highlight or something, I’ll see what (the Philleis) are doing, but I’ve kind of closed the book on that time in my life. Although, probably later on in life, I’ll open that book often and go back and sift through the memories. Right now, there’s enough to keep me occupied and to pay attention to that it’s kind of insignificant to me what exactly is going on there, although I wish them the best of luck and health and happiness.”
“I was happy when I signed here (and) that was one of the things I was happy about, staying in the division, being able to play Philly — for better or for worse — play against those guys. It’s not like I felt like I was leaving, never to be seen again.”
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel: “We gotta get him out. J-Dub is standing in the way, gotta get him out.”
“The time I had with him, he worked and deserved everything he got. He became a good player for us. He dedicated himself.”
Manuel admitted he will most certainly be trash talking the Nationals right fielder..
“I talked to him the day he signed with Washington,” Manuel said. “I told him, ‘Send me some money.’ … I’ll be getting on him. I’ll be hollering at him.”
Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino: “He’s been great. At the start of the season, he sent me texts. ‘Good luck, have a good year.’ The other day when I hurt my calf he sent me a message saying ‘How serious?’ He was checking on how I was doing.”
“It’s definitely going to be different (playing against him). I played with him when I was on the Dodgers and then him coming (to Philly), yeah, it’ll be different playing against him. It’s definitely going to be a little bit awkward.”
“It’s nice to see he hasn’t separated himself. Yeah, he is playing somewhere else, but he is paying attention to what other guys are doing.”
– Special thanks to the Philadelpha Inquirer’s Matt Gelb for the Phillies’ quotes.