While all eyes this afternoon will be on Nats Park for the epic pitching matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey at 1:05 PM ET, Washington Nationals fans, if they subscribe to MILB.TV, will also get the chance to watch the beginning of one of their key offensive players’ rehab stints as he tries to get back into the lineup next week.
Left fielder Jayson Werth, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery he had back in February, will play seven innings for the Nationals’ high-A affiliate, the Potomac Nationals after playing in a simulated game Wednesday. Potomac will send Nick Pivetta to the mound against the Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland Indians).
This is what manager Matt Williams told the media Wednesday afternoon, before the Nationals took on the New York Mets:
“We want him to play back-to-back days, he’s going to be asked to do that when he returns. And he’s done that, he played four in a row and could have played five in a row just before getting here.” (h/t CSNWashington.com)
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It was reported on Monday that Werth could have returned for the opener against the Mets, but he did not play in a minor league game that took place last Saturday morning at 9 AM. Now, the question remains as to when Werth might return to the lineup since he is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday.
“I think Saturday is probably stretching it. We want to make sure he gets at least nine innings and he won’t get that tomorrow.” (h/t CSN Washington)
While it would have been ideal to have had Werth out there for Opening Day, you have to think the Nationals have handled this the right way. Even though it is weird to be playing an interleague series this early in the season, playing at Fenway Park to begin next week is the perfect way to ease him back in to the swing of things.
The question will be, whether or not Matt Williams eases Werth back into the lineup by making him the designated hitter in all three games and leaving the platoon of Tyler Moore and Matt den Dekker out in left field for now.
Last season, Werth hit .292 with 16 home runs and drove in 82 runs in 147 games. When he comes back off the disabled list, he will be playing left field for the first time since he was with the Phillies in 2009 now that Bryce Harper is the everyday right fielder.
There was also news on Denard Span, who also played in a simulated game with Werth on Wednesday as he will head down to the Nats spring training complex in Viera to continue to play in more minor league games.