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Werth embraces leadoff role

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Werth embraces leadoff role

As he was getting close to returning from a broken left wrist, Jayson Werth asked Davey Johnson where the Nationals manager planned to hit him in his starting lineup.

Johnson said he was thinking about leading him off, to which Werth replied: "That's great."

"He's a student, he studies the game," Johnson said. "And he knows the talents of everybody else."

Indeed, a quick scan of the Nationals' projected lineup (especially once Ian Desmond returned from his own oblique injury) showed no traditional candidate to hit leadoff. Werth made the most sense.

"His approach, the way he approaches every at-bat, is really more in line with a leadoff hitter," Johnson said. "He takes a lot of pitches and a lot of times will try to hit the pitcher's pitch. He's not your normal, 6-foot-4, talented, gifted athlete that goes up there and tries to hit a bomb on the first pitch he sees. He's a good hitter, and he likes to look at a lot of pitches. ... He's an on-base table-setter, and he's a run producer. It's the best of both worlds."

The new look paid off Friday night, when Werth went 2-for-4 and twice reached base to start a rally that would later be capped by a home run. And if the veteran outfielder continues to do what he's done since returning from the DL three weeks ago, he'll be as productive a leadoff man as there is in baseball.

In 14 games, Werth is hitting .413 with a .509 on-base percentage. He's drawn nine walks while striking out only five times, and he's nearly driven in as many runs (eight) as he's scored (nine).

Werth's willingness to hit atop the lineup is a bit of a departure from his feelings on the subject last year when ex-manager Jim Riggleman used him there for 11 games in June. When Riggleman abruptly resigned and Johnson took over as skipper, Werth was moved down in the order and stayed there the rest of the season.

This time around, the 33-year-old has embraced the idea.

"I think I'm capable of hitting leadoff, just because I see a lot of pitches and I get on base a lot," he said. "Whether you drive the ball or hit the ball out of the yard or get hit, whatever, I think the most important thing is getting on base for your teammates. If that means I'm going to hit leadoff and do that, that's fine. If I'm going to hit sixth and do that, that's fine, too. I'll hit anywhere. But I like the way it sets up."

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Zimmerman after minor league rehab games: 'I think I'm good to go'

Zimmerman after minor league rehab games: 'I think I'm good to go'

Having landed five hits already in three minor league rehab games, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is on track to return to the Nationals on Tuesday when they hit the road to play at the Cleveland Indians.

The 12-year MLB veteran believes that by Tuesday he'll not only be ready to return, but to play every day.

"I think I'm good to go," Zimmerman said. "I feel good. I didn't take that much time off, but it was good to get down there and get some at-bats. I'll be ready to come help this team out in the second half."

Zimmerman, who is recovering from a left rib cage strain, played Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the Single-A Potomac Nationals. He went 5-for-12 with a home run, five RBI, a double and four runs scored.

The Nats wanted the 31-year-old to play three games and he came out of them feeling no complications from his injury.

"Everything feels good," Zimmerman said. "When I come back, I will be ready to go."

Zimmerman has been on the disabled list since July 7. He sustained the injury the day before during an at-bat against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Zimmerman is hitting .221/.284/.402 with 12 homers and 38 RBI in 74 games this season.

[RELATED: How Dusty's holy water helped Revere vs. Padres]

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Harper gets the day off as Nats aim for series win against Padres

Harper gets the day off as Nats aim for series win against Padres

Nationals (58-40) vs. Padres (42-56) at Nationals Park

The Nationals rallied to win Saturday night's game in walkoff fashion on Stephen Drew's RBI triple. On Sunday, they will look to win the rubber match and take their season series against the San Diego Padres.

Top prospect Lucas Giolito (0-0, 4.70) will make his third MLB start for the Nationals. He gave up four earned runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings against the Mets his last time out.

Lefty Christian Friedrich (4-6, 4.55) will start for the Padres. He lost to the Nats on June 17 when he gave up six earned in six innings in San Diego.

Bryce Harper gets the day off with Chris Heisey in at right field. Ben Revere is also off with Michael Taylor in center.

First pitch: 1:35 p.m.
TV: CBS-9, MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Lucas Giolito vs. Padres - Christian Friedrich

NATS

2B Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
C Wilson Ramos
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Chris Heisey
CF Michael Taylor
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Lucas Giolito

PADRES

CF Travis Jankowski
1B Wil Myers
RF Matt Kemp
3B Yangervis Solarte
LF Corey Dickerson
2B Ryan Schimpf
SS Alexei Ramirez
C Derek Norris
LHP Christian Friedrich

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Report: Nationals targeting Chapman, Yankees want Ross

Report: Nationals targeting Chapman, Yankees want Ross

With the trade deadline fast approaching, the Nationals are looking to gear up for a long playoff run. According to one report, however, their top target may come at a very high price.

It has been widely reported that the Nationals are interested in New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, but the Yankees have set a very high price for him. According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are interested in starter Joe Ross. That's a hefty price to pay and it may be too much for the Nationals.

Chapman has 20 saves this season out of 21 save opportunities. Though very good, he is a curious choice considering the Nationals still have Jonathan Papelbon.

Last year, general manager Mike Rizzo made the controversial decision to trade for Papelbon despite Drew Storen pitching well as the team's closer. It would certainly be ironic to see the same thing happen to Papelbon this year.

Then again, if the Yankees don't lower their asking price, Papelbon won't have to worry as Chapman will not be coming to Washington.

RELATED: HOW DUSTY'S HOLY WATER HELPED REVERE VS. PADRES