On Thursday night, Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth began his rehab assignment in high-A Potomac as the minor league season got underway all around the nation (low-A to triple-A). The plan was for the left fielder to play seven innings in the field, which he did. However, Werth only had one ball hit to him, which was a triple hit in the left center field gap.
Even with the hype around Werth’s appearance, some of the other Potomac Nats had good games as well, despite the defending Carolina League Champions losing 8-6 to the Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland Indians).
In Werth’s first at-bat in the first inning, he didn’t get many pitches to hit from Lynchburg starter Dylan Baker as he worked a five-pitch walk. That would be the only baserunner Baker would allow as he threw five no-hit innings and struck out eight Potomac hitters.
Baker would get the upper hand on Werth in the bottom of the fourth inning when he got him looking with a 2-2 fastball. In his final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh inning against Justin Brantley, Werth hit the ball hard, but the Hillcats had the shift on perfectly as the ball went right to Bradley Zimmer in center field.
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The Potomac Nationals did not bring much offense to the opener to start with as the first hit of the game for them came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Brantley gave up a leadoff double to left field from the designated hitter, James Yezzo.
However, the Nationals had one of their top pitching prospects throw a great game of his own. Nick Pivetta, who is ranked 12th on the Nationals top prospects list according to MLB Pipeline, struck out seven batters over five innings of work. He gave up one earned run on three hits and walked one. That run came in the top of the fifth when Ivan Castillo hit an infield single that scored Luigi Rodriguez.
Jake Johansen (19th ranked prospect) would come in for Pivetta in the sixth. He went 2.2 innings, gave up three runs on two hits, struck out four batters, and walked three. This includes a two-run home run he gave up to Paul Hendrix in that sixth inning.
Even though Potomac was down 8-0, they came back to score six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, all with two outs. However, Wilmer Difo, who represented the winning run, would strike out to end the game.
So, what’s next for Werth? Well, on Wednesday, Nationals manager Matt Williams said on Wednesday that he wants Werth to play nine innings in back-to-back games before he comes back. This is what Werth told the media after the game:
“My plan would be to play here as many days in a row as I can. If everything goes well, I think I’m ready. I need at-bats. That’s the tough part. You are going to have to play nine when you go up there. Big difference between seven and nine. Doesn’t seem like it would be, but it’s quite a bit more, especially early on when you’re not in game shape.” (h/t Byron Kerr, MASN Sports)
Werth is eligible to come off the DL on Saturday, but that doesn’t appear to be likely. He should be able to get in enough games since Potomac is at home until March 16.
In other minor league news, tenth ranked pitching prospect, Austin Voth, gave up no runs on three hits while striking out seven batters in six innings for double-A Harrisburg against the Altoona Curve.