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Werth shouldn't rush back

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Werth shouldn't rush back

NEW YORK -- The Nationals have survived without Jayson Werth for nearly three months now, and the time is fast approaching for the veteran right fielder to rejoin the club after recovering from a broken left wrist.

Werth played in his first rehab game with Class AAA Syracuse last night -- he went 0-for-3, grounding into a double play -- and general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson have both said they'll let the 33-year-old dictate how much more time he needs in the minors.

That could be as little as one more week, and Johnson acknowledged Werth could come off the disabled list for the start of the Nationals' next homestand. That just so happens to come on July 31, with the Phillies in town. And wouldn't that offer up a juicy storyline, with Werth returning to the field against his former club and against the same team he was facing when he broke the wrist in the first place (with many Philadelphia fans in attendance mocking him as he departed the field in terrible pain).

Obviously, Werth has motivation to make it back for that game. But the Nationals need to be careful not to rush him back too soon, for a couple of reasons...

1) As we saw earlier this summer with Michael Morse, it can take a while for a player who has missed considerable time with an injury to get his swing back on track. Morse (who played only seven rehab games before coming off the DL) needed almost a month in the big leagues before he looked like his old self again.

2) The Nats have been making do for awhile now without Werth, and they can make do for another week or two if they have to. Roger Bernadina is playing extraordinarily well at the moment, and his is the outfield and lineup spot Werth would take over.

There could be some temptation on the Nationals part to try to get Werth back in the lineup as quickly as possible now that they've lost Ian Desmond to an oblique tear. But that's the wrong reason to rush another player back from a serious injury.

Desmond's injury has actually brought some clarity to a Nationals lineup that might have needed to be jumbled up once Werth was back. His return would have left Johnson with two second basemen in Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi and only one starting job between them. And whoever would up starting would have to lead off, given the makeup of the rest of the lineup.

With Desmond out for at least a month, though, both Espinosa and Lombardozzi remain in the lineup, with Lombardozzi assuming permanent leadoff duties. That actually will save Johnson from making a difficult decision, and he can now just insert Werth into the No. 6 spot behind Adam LaRoche and in front of Espinosa, a natural fit.

But that arrangement only works if Werth is healthy and ready to face big-league pitchers. One week on rehab may not be enough.

The Nationals would be wise to take their time here. And Werth would be wise to listen to them and return only when he's truly ready.

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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