Though he felt like he was ready to face big-league pitching again after a three-month recovery from a broken left wrist and a nine-game rehab assignment in the minors, Jayson Werth figured there might be a bit of a transition phase once the Nationals activated him off the disabled list last week.As it turns out, Werth's only transition has been from cautious optimism to downright giddiness after a fantastic re-debut weekend at Nationals Park. In his first four games back, the veteran outfielder is 5-for-12 with five walks, all but erasing whatever doubts there were about his ability to make a smooth return from a devastating injury."I'm surprised," Werth admitted after yesterday's 4-1 win over the Marlins. "The whole thing's very surprising."Not that he didn't expect to ever get his swing back. He just figured it would take a little more time before he felt comfortable facing big-league pitchers again.Werth pointed out he was cleared to swing a bat only about three weeks ago."I kept trying to swing, kept trying to swing, and just wasn't ready," he said. "And then one day I was like: 'Oh, I can swing.' And then two days later I was like: 'I can really swing!'"Werth began his rehab assignment at Class A Potomac on July 21. He wound up playing a total of nine games over 12 days, most of that time spent at Class AAA Syracuse, and about halfway through the process began to feel like his timing at the plate had returned.Even so, Werth figured he would still need more time to get his body (especially his legs) back into full baseball shape."Sometimes that takes a while," he said. "You go to spring training for six weeks, and usually the last week your legs show up. So that's five weeks waiting for it to happen. I think I was out on rehab for two weeks, not even. So my legs are still a little behind. But everything else feels good."It's hard to dispute the on-field results since Werth was activated off the DL. Splitting time between center and right fields, he's recorded at least one hit in all four games he's played. His keen eye at the plate is as sharp as ever, leading to five walks. Perhaps most impressively, he has only struck out once."His every at-bat is good," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's making contact. He's getting the head out. He's always a great defensive player and baserunner."Werth has essentially picked up where he left off upon getting hurt on May 6. In 31 total games this season, he's now hitting .291 with a .400 on-base percentage and .836 OPS.On top of all that, Werth seems as comfortable and relaxed as he's been since signing with the Nationals 19 months ago. Having long since moved past his disappointing 2011, he's become less of a focal point inside a clubhouse that features plenty more prominent names and faces, allowing Werth to be just another member of a first-place club."He's playing the way I always thought he was going to play," Johnson said. "I didn't see that last year. He was trying to be the leader on the ballclub. He had all kinds of different responsibilities. Now he's just being himself."
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.
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.
#Nationals still have interest in both Wieters & Holland..but they are way over budget on Spring Training Complex making decision difficult— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) January 18, 2017
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