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."