- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

PITTSBURGH — When Washington outfielder Jayson Werth walked off the field at Nationals Park on Sunday night, head down and clutching his left wrist, more than one stomach churned. Not only did Werth look to be in significant pain, but a ligament injury to the same wrist in 2005 nearly ended his career.

The way it looked at the outset, there really was no worse place for Werth to be injured. Nationals manager Davey Johnson called it “tragic.”

But after surgery Monday, the Nationals and Werth were assured by Mayo Clinic surgeon Richard Berger, who first operated on Werths wrist in 2006, that “it was as good a break as you could have for the situation.”

Said general manager Mike Rizzo: “His past injuries to his wrist, fortunately, are not in play here. The break was on the opposite side of the wrist [from where his injury was] before.”

Werth will heal for six weeks and then begin a strengthening program that will gradually progress to baseball activities. The timetable for his return, right now, is 10-12 weeks, but a lot depends on how quickly he improves once the doctors are satisfied with the healing. Berger told the Nationals that Werth should “regain full activity and his pre-injury ability level,” Rizzo said.

But Werths wrist history should not be entirely disregarded, though the Nationals have been assured there was no ligament damage. Because of the trauma his wrist already has been through, ESPN medical expert Stephania Bell wrote Monday that any “major injury on an area that has already suffered an injury can be problematic.”

The Nationals were optimistic Tuesday. “Bones heal,” Rizzo said. “Thats a good thing.”

But the loss of Werth to the Nationals, on the field and in the clubhouse, is a difficult one. First baseman Adam LaRoche called it “a pretty big bullet for us,” and several players noted Werths significant off-field influence that will be missed, particularly his ability to pick up small parts of the game that might normally go unnoticed and use them to his and the teams advantage. Bryce Harper, who stole home Sunday night on Werth’s advance report of Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels pickoff move, cited the right fielder as “the biggest help,” to him since hes arrived in the majors.

On the field, the Nationals have opened the door for Roger Bernadina and Xavier Nady. Chad Tracy and Steve Lombardozzi are other options, but Johnson prefers to keep his options simpler. Rizzo said the Nationals have no plans to aggressively pursue outside outfield options, especially with Michael Morse expected back in June.

Bernadina has had several chances in his years with the team. His potential is vast, but his inconsistency maddening. In 2010, Bernadina had 461 plate appearances. In June, he hit .161. The Nationals will gave him another chance, starting Tuesday night.

“He’s got tremendous talent,” Johnson said. “When you scout him, he grades out high on just about everything about him.”

Bernadina said, “Ive got to do it more consistently. Well see what happens. I just see it day-to-day. I dont want to look too much ahead. If Im in there, Ill do whatever I can to make the best out of it.”

Notes

Rizzo was fined an undisclosed amount for his comments on Hamels intentionally throwing at Harper, a source told The Washington Times. Rizzo called Hamels “gutless” and “fake tough,” as well as using several expletives to describe his actions. Hamels was suspended five games and fined.

The Nationals signed left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez to a minor league deal Tuesday. Gonzalez, who pitched for Baltimore and Texas in 2011, will report to Viera, Fla., to be evaluated before the Nationals assign him to a team. The Nationals were in talks with Gonzalez, a Scott Boras client, for some time as the lefty remained unemployed but when Brad Lidge required surgery to repair a sports hernia, the Nationals pursued him more aggressively.

• Ryan Zimmerman was activated from the disabled list Tuesday while Werth was placed on the 15-day DL. Zimmerman (right AC joint inflammation) and LaRoche (right oblique) were back in the lineup Tuesday, hitting third and fourth. Harper was moved to the No. 2 spot.