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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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This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to have: A talented outfield led by Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton. A rising superstar at shortstop in Trea Turner. A possibly major hole at closer.

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to not have: Razors. Shaving cream. A desire to groom their faces.

A fun tradition at each team's spring training is the annual photo day, because photo day forces professional athletes to pose in front of cameras like they're being featured in the poster of an upcoming blockbuster movie. And after poring through the snapshots from the Nationals' photo day, a single trend emerged.

This year's team is a hairy bunch.

Among that bunch are the usual suspects, such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth:

But there are some surprises, most notably of which is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander tends to keep his mug 100-percent clean-shaven, but for now, at least, he's allowed his face to become quite fertile:

Then there's newcomer Adam Lind, who has a goatee that Duke's Blue Devil logo would be forced to respect:

Shawn Kelley, meanwhile, who's pictured below, has a beard that looks like...

...Derek Norris' beard, before Derek Norris' beard hit puberty and grew up to be the strong, mature beard it is today:

There are scraggly ones, such as Daniel Murphy's:

And fuller, more complete ones, like Eaton's (full marks, by the way, for the trade acquisition's ability to seamlessly connect 'stache to beard):

The most wild photo of all, however, was this one of Turner. Is this the Nats stud, or a picture of Leonard DiCaprio from a scene in The Revenant? Hard to tell with all that stubble the infielder's cultivating:

One potential positive of this team-wide movement: If Turner and his teammates keep what they're growing down in Florida going throughout the season, their faces will be plenty warm by the time playoff baseball comes around. 

RELATED: HARPER GOES YARD IN FIRST AT-BAT OF THE SPRING

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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year