“I’m ready,” Werth told him.
On his way home from what would be his final rehab game, Werth finally felt he couldn’t wait any longer. He was ready to return to the major league team, to contribute to the playoff stretch run and to face Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night.
Seventy-five games after Werth — facing Hamels and the Phillies, in an odd bit of symmetry — slid in right field at Nationals Park and snapped his left wrist, he was back in the starting lineup, playing center field and batting sixth.
Shortstop Ian Desmond will remain on the disabled list for another few weeks with an oblique strain, and Wilson Ramos is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee. But for the first time this season the Nationals had Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper in the same starting lineup.
“We’re getting there,” Johnson said. “This is the closest we’ve been in a long time.”
Because his playing time will be cut significantly with Werth back, the team considered sending Tyler Moore back to Triple-A so he could get at-bats, but with Rodriguez ailing they opted to go with what they felt was their best 25.
Johnson spoke with Rodriguez and Moore on Thursday. He stressed to Rodriguez to take the time to get healthy and be ready to help the Nationals as they make their playoff push. And he discussed with Moore the way the rookie’s role would change and how his offensive approach should adjust accordingly. He also suggested he look into playing winter ball to compensate for some of his lost playing time.
But that was an issue for another day as Thursday was about the Nationals getting one of their leaders back. Werth hit .296 in nine rehab games and really began to come on at the plate in the final three or four games. He has yet to play nine innings on back-to-back days, but the Nationals’ reports were that he was moving around in the outfield well, and he looked to be more comfortable offensively.
Werth will play center field as well as right, with the move of Moore and Roger Bernadina to the Nationals’ bench freeing up Johnson’s options to give him rest when he needs, and to rest Harper when necessary as well.View Entire Story
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Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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