"One of us! One of us!" - Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after scoring against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fourth inning at Nationals Park on April 12, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
In his first game against the team he played with for four years before he signed a 6-year/$126M dollar deal with the Washington Nationals this past December, former Philadelphia Phillies' right fielder Jayson Werth went 2 for 3 with a double and a home run, which put the Nats up 5-1 when he hit it and ended up being the winning run in a 7-4 game. Going into the game, Werth had just two hits, one a HR, in his previous 20 at bats. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Werth, as quoted in CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman's article on the game entitled, "Werth homers against former team to help lift Nats", was asked if it meant more for the big game to come against Philadelphia:
"Was it extra special against those guys? Probably a little bit," he said. "I was just trying to perform well for [Phillies manager] Charlie [Manuel]. He hadn't seen me play in a while."
The Phillies' manager wasn't the only one who was impressed, more on that in a moment, but Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman, in an appearance this morning on the MLB Network Radio show "First Pitch" with Rob Dibble and Jim Memolo, said he thought the opportunity to play the team he'd gone to the playoffs with in each of his four seasons in Philadelphia definitely motivated the 31-year-old outfielder:
"I think that the first time you play your ex-team, no matter how much you try to downplay it, it's got to be a little special and you certainly want to have a good day. I know that he had to be jacked up about it a little bit, but he's just a good player. He wasn't going to continue the way he had been. Even though he wasn't getting a lot of hits, he was getting on base a lot, drawing a lot of walks as he does, but he put it all together last night, had a nice ballgame for us running the bases and doing what he does defensively, and especially with the bat. But we're glad that one's over. You know, that first one against your ex-club, I'm glad that one's over so it's not an issue."
Philies' Skipper Charlie Manuel appeared on MLB Network Radio later in the afternoon, and he joked with "Power Alley" hosts Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy about how much weight Werth had put on since he signed with the Nationals after four years in Philly. "I told him his pockets were a little heavier," Manuel said, "I said you got more weight in your back pocket. And he kind of laughed, but he had a good game, he played very good."
"When you're a manager and your core players, you're kind of close to them and everything, you miss...I miss Jayson Werth and I pull for him, [but] at the same time, I don't want him hitting us like that, but yeah it was good seeing him and he was definitely happy to see us.
"It's odd to see somebody like that. When you have them, I had him for about three years of something, and it's kind of different when he's out there playing for somebody else and it's definitely, it's kind of I'm happy for him because I've seen him improve his game, I've seen him become a regular player and his development was definitely under the Phillies, and he went free agent, of course, and he got paid very good for it, and in some ways that's what baseball is about. You don't like to give up players like that, but at the same time the game kind of, what do you call it, it kind of moves that forward and in that direction and that can be a good thing about the game, especially for a guy's career."
The Phillies fans who traveled south to the nation's capital weren't as excited as Werth's former manager was to see him. Estimates from last night's game had Philly fans making up 3-4,000 of the 13-14,000 fans in attendance and they booed their former power-hitting outfielder at every opportunity. Werth hit 95 HR's over four years with the Phillies. His second HR as a National may have been the hit that officially broke the bond with the followers of his former team. If he wasn't before last night, Jayson Werth is a Washington National now.