Still a few weeks away from returning, the Washington Nationals wait for Jayson Werth and are thankful for his replacements.
Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth is not expected back until after the All-Star break as he heals from a foot contusion. Fouling a ball off his left foot during the Nats west coast swing in Oakland, the amount of swelling told Werth this was not the normal baseball-on-cleat injury.
Although the Nats miss Werth on the field, the platoon of Brian Goodwin and Ryan Raburn have held their own. Goodwin stroked six home runs since his recall from Triple-A Syracuse along with seven doubles. His slash line of .275/.343/.571 will keep him in Washington after Werth returns.
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Raburn, plucked from the Chicago White Sox organization in late-may, is hitting .324 in limited duty with a triple and homer.
When you add the bicep rupture and setback suffered by Chris Heisey, the Nats are fortunate to be in good shape during Werth’s absence. Sure, the Werth, Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper outfield constructed this spring disappeared, but Goodwin, Raburn and Michael Taylor are great assets, not liabilities.
When Werth returns, expect Goodwin to maintain regular playing time. Although the veteran Werth will be fresher after six weeks away, at 38 there is no reason he must play every day.
As with Taylor, Goodwin is steady in the field and looks comfortable at the plate. His ear-to-ear grin is on display in the dugout and is contagious. On a team focused on winning, the levity is a good break from the usual intensity.
Washington, however, misses Werth in the lineup.
Before his injury, Werth slugged eight home runs and carried a slash line of .262/.367/.446 for an OPS of .814. His ability to take pitches helped Harper and Ryan Zimmerman immediately down the lineup. No longer a superstar, the man with the crazy beard relished his role on the team. Grizzled veteran.
As the Nats hold a sizeable lead in the NL East race, there is no need to rush Werth back. He has started running and playing catch, but is not swinging a bat. When cleared, there will be a minor-league rehab stint to follow. All the time away messes with swing timing.
A fresh Werth is what the Nats need down the stretch. Because there is no serious challenge in the division, Washington fights complacency and boredom like they battle the Atlanta Braves. He makes a great tonic against all three.
Although Raburn’s role is unclear after Werth’s return, with Heisey out a while, there should be room for him in DC and not Syracuse.
With the added bench depth that is a good thing as we head into midsummer.