Werth's return to power a work in progress
WASHINGTON -- After suffering a broken left wrist last May 6, Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth returned to the lineup a different hitter. With his strength not all the way back, Werth cut down his swing over his final 54 regular-season games, hitting .312 with a .394 on-base percentage, but only two home runs.
That break was the second major injury to strike Werth's left wrist -- he had surgeries on it in 2005 and '06 after being hit by a pitch -- and those setbacks have taken their toll.
"I don't feel like my wrist will ever be the same," Werth said before Thursday's 6-1 win over the Marlins. "I had three surgeries and got a titanium plate and three screws and eight pins. It'll never be how it was in '04 before I hurt it the first time. But I continue to deal with it and work with what I've got, and I feel strong. It feels good. I don't really see it being a problem."
The 33-year-old went 0-for-8 with two strikeouts in the Nationals' first two games, with manager Davey Johnson saying that he was having trouble staying on top of the ball and possibly feeling the effects of Washington's early-season cold weather. But Werth went 2-for-4 on Thursday, including a three-run homer in the seventh inning that flew more than 400 feet, over the left-field bullpen.
That shot, off a 93-mph fastball from lefty Mike Dunn, provided a possible answer to the big question hanging over Werth this season. That concerns his ability to supply power, something that typically suffers when players sustain wrist injuries.
After returning from his first setback in 2007, Werth hit eight home runs in 94 games for the Phillies. He then averaged 27 over the next four years before sliding back to five in 81 games last season.
"I think each year, regardless of injury, you kind of mold into a different form, almost," Werth said. "Some guys are different. Some guys are fortunate enough to play at a really high level every year. But even then, you still go through ups and downs. The game's always adapting to you, and you're always adapting to the game, so it's never a constant."
As Werth pointed out, he did manage to hit a crucial home run in the 2012 postseason, connecting on a walk-off shot in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals. Might that, combined with Thursday's blast, be a sign of things to come in '13?
"It's yet to be seen, but I feel like I have the type of power I've had in the past," he said.