- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2014

It’s early in spring training for a team with limited competition for only a handful of roster spots. So you can expect a lot of lineup chatter from the Nationals for the next few weeks.

New manager Matt Williamshinted on Wednesday that Bryce Harper was a good fit for the No. 5 spot in the batting order. He didn’t go so far as guaranteeing that, of course. On Thursday, Jayson Werth spoke with reporters for the first time and talked about his ideal spot in the batting order. He certainly has a preference.

“I do not want to hit 5. I do not want to hit 2. I will hit 2 and I will hit 5. I would hit 4. I’m not leading off,” Werth said. “I’ve always wanted to hit third. If that’s where I hit, fine. If that’s not where I hit. … I’ve hit fourth, I’ve hit fifth, I’ve hit sixth, I’ve led off. I could probably hit ninth if it came to it.”

Werth has long maintained that – even though he was really, really good at it in the second half of the 2012 season – he hates leading off. There were conversations with former manager Davey Johnson over the previous two seasons about what Werth liked. But he also says those were overblown and often took place via the media anyway.

“I don’t think Davey and I talked lineups as much as you thought we did,” Werth said. “I think we might have talked through you guys. I’ve maintained that I don’t make the lineup. I have suggestions for the lineup, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’m just a grunt around here.”

Werth has more power than that, of course. And Williams has said repeatedly since being hired that his main objective is to learn his players’ preferences and work with them. He may not be able to satisfy everybody. Williams played the game long enough to know that’s unlikely. Players will just have to deal with their spot.

“I come from the era when you had a pretty set lineup. These days, it jumbles a little bit,” Williams said on Wednesday. “Sometimes it shuffles around. I’d like to get them in a spot where they feel good. The hope of every manager, especially a first-time manager, is to say: ‘Guys, it’s going to be this way, and don’t even bother looking at the lineup card when you come into the clubhouse, because you’re going to hit in this spot.’ When in reality, that doesn’t happen. So my objective this spring is to find out where they’re comfortable, and try to put them in that position as much as I can, so they feel comfortable going out to play and it’s not foreign to them.”