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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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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others