The ball was cracking off Jayson Werth’s with a sound so flush that even the Washington Nationals’ intense right fielder could smile at the relief of it.
Ten weeks and two days after Werth underwent surgery to repair a distal radius fracture in his left wrist, he was on the field at Nationals Park taking full batting practice for the first time. He sprayed the ball to all fields, at one point hit seven consecutive monster home runs to left and center field and came away receiving handshakes from general manager Mike Rizzo, manager Davey Johnson and a host of coaches and trainers who watched the session.
They came away so impressed that it is likely Werth will go to Single-A Potomac on Friday to begin a rehab assignment that can last a maximum of 20 days.
“I think everyone is a little surprised,” Werth said Wednesday. “I’m surprised, at least with how it felt in the last week. It’s come a long way. … It’s one of those things where, we’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re really good. We’re way ahead. I think everyone is really pleased, and I’m real excited.”
When Dr. Richard Berger operated on Werth’s wrist at the Mayo Clinic in May, he told him that his progress would appear steady and slow — and then take off. Roughly 10 days ago, Werth said he was still shaking off the postsurgery atrophy when it came to swinging a bat. He rested the first two days of the All-Star break and then returned to work Wednesday feeling better than ever.
“I was really pleasantly surprised,” Johnson said. “After I saw him hit, I don’t see any reason to think differently [about a rehab assignment)].”
Rizzo was pleased with Werth’s bat speed as well as the power and strength he displayed but said that they’re going to continue taking things day by day. Werth’s body figures to be sore with each day as he works his way back into baseball shape.
“I’m not going to put any expectations on [the rehab assignment],” Werth said. “I’m going out on Friday early with the mindset of, ‘We’re going to get ready to play. I’m going to get my body in shape, as I’m gaining strength.’ There are things I still don’t have with my hand.
“We’ve still got a ways to go with the rehab. I don’t expect any setbacks or anything like that. [But] at the same time, I’m going to get my body and my legs, my eyes, in shape ahead of time while my hand continues to heal and recover. It’s a timing thing … Will it be all 20 days? I don’t think so. But I don’t know. Everything has happened so fast. It’s a good thing. But there are still a lot of unknowns.”
To that end, Werth said there shouldn’t be too much read into his power display mid-way through the session Wednesday that featured seven straight hits over the walls of Nationals Park. It’s batting practice, and the pitches are coming at a slow speed without much movement. Still, he admitted it was fun.
“It’s not usually part of my preparation to hit home runs like that, but it did feel really good to strike the ball cleanly and all that,” Werth said. “But with that said, it doesn’t really equate to anything. It doesn’t really tell me anything other than I had that good feeling where you get in a rhythm.
“That’s what I was trying to make everyone understand, yeah that was great but I know I need strength. I need more strength. In a game the ball’s going to be moving you’re going to have to make really quick adjustments. That’s a long way away from now. I feel like I’m still a ways away from being ready to play up here but things have come quick. It was a good sign but it wasn’t a sign of anything else.”
Notes: Drew Storen is inching closer to a return to the active roster. Storen could be activated as soon as Thursday, manager Davey Johnson said, after he threw a dominant inning at Single-A Potomac on Tuesday night. … Catcher Jhonatan Solano is likely headed to the disabled list with an oblique strain and the Nationals are expected to recall Sandy Leon from Double-A Harrisburg, where he’s been since recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered in his major league debut. … Shortstop Ian Desmond, also dealing with an oblique strain, was out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight game.