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Healthy Werth eyeing return to form in 2016

MLB.com

VIERA, Fla. -- One of the looming questions surrounding the Nationals at the start of this spring is: What can they expect from Jayson Werth, who turns 37 in May and is coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season?

Werth said he considered last season a wash, with injuries limiting him to hit just .221/.302/.384 and produce a negative 1.6 bWAR in 88 games. He said he believes he can return to form from the 2014 season, when he batted .292/.394/.455 and was a 4.1 WAR player in 147 games.

VIERA, Fla. -- One of the looming questions surrounding the Nationals at the start of this spring is: What can they expect from Jayson Werth, who turns 37 in May and is coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season?

Werth said he considered last season a wash, with injuries limiting him to hit just .221/.302/.384 and produce a negative 1.6 bWAR in 88 games. He said he believes he can return to form from the 2014 season, when he batted .292/.394/.455 and was a 4.1 WAR player in 147 games.

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"If I'm healthy, I don't see why I can't do what I've always done," Werth said in his return to Nationals camp Friday after missing the previous day due to illness.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker added, "I think he's going to have a big year, big time. And I'm counting on him to have a big year."

The Nationals made competitive offers this past winter to free-agent outfielders such as Yoenis Cespedes and Jason Heyward. The team acquired Ben Revere in January to play center field, and Bryce Harper has right field securely occupied, so perhaps Werth would have been the odd man out if Washington had successfully signed any of those free agents.

"If we want to improve the team, I think we should," Werth said. "Until I prove that I can't play, I think I'll be in left field. But I think it was great we were going after those guys. Anytime you go out and play for a team that's trying to acquire big-time free agents ... to improve the team, I think that's a good thing."

The Nationals still owe Werth $42 million during the final two years remaining on his contract, although he joked he thinks he could still play eight or 10 more years.

"The stuff I've been reading, it seems like I'm already done," Werth said.

Video: WSH@PHI: Werth launches his second homer of night

Werth produced a .685 OPS in 2015 in what was his worst mark since he became an everyday player with the Phillies in 2007, which he attributed to a combination of injuries and bad luck.

He began last season by having surgery in January to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder, which forced him to begin the season on the disabled list. Werth spent all of Spring Training 2015 rehabbing that injury, something Baker said he went through twice during his playing career.

"That was hard. You're playing catchup the whole time," Baker said.

Tweet from @Nationals: Jayson Werth = 1st round pick, 1997Trea Turner = 1st round pick, 2014. pic.twitter.com/9frxkhibn1

Then after Werth came back, he broke his left wrist after being hit by a pitch in a game against the Padres on May 15, and he was sidelined until July 28. Now he enters this spring, after a much more normal offseason, feeling healthy.

"The shoulder injury is tricky, because I've never started a season with what I had," Werth said. "We'll have to take it -- it had to take time. We'll have to see once games start going, but so far so good. I've never been in that situation.

"Obviously, I'm older, but I still feel like I'm gonna be able to produce and be myself and play my game."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Jayson Werth