Washington Nationals' Jayson Werth Wants Back In The Middle, But Where Is He Needed In 2013?

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Washington Nationals' outfielder Jayson Werth hit at the top of the lineup because he was needed there, but what he said this weekend was that he might want back in the middle of the order in 2013. Werth also says he has some lineup ideas to share with his manager...

As the oft-repeated anecdote has it, and as Baltimore Sun writer David Schmuck recounted in a 1995 article, Davey Johnson used to, "... borrow time on the computer system at [Baltimore] Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger's brewery," so that he could, in Johnson's own words, "... work on this program I called 'Optimizing the Orioles Lineup.'" As Johnson explained it, he, "... would run it through the computer and bring the data to Earl Weaver," who managed Johnson with the O's when the infielder was on the team from 1968-72.

"I found out that if I hit second instead of seventh," Johnson said, "we'd score 50 or 60 more runs and that would translate into a few more wins. I gave it to him, and it went right into the garbage can.'" The way Johnson, who is about to turn 70 on January 30th describes it, and the way Jayson Werth talks, it sounds like the two are a modern day Johnson and Weaver, though the Nats' skipper seems more willing to consider his player's opinion than the late, notoriously churlish Weaver was willing to consider Johnson's.

When D.C. GM Mike Rizzo discussed the Nats' outfield recently, the general manager sounded committed to the idea of Bryce Harper moving to left field with Jayson Werth staying in right now that Denard Span's taking over in center. Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN In D.C.'s Grant Paulsen this weekend in an interview from NatsFest that though Harper might profile better in right down the line it's possible he'll end up playing left in 2013, "... and maybe even probable because you've got an extremely talented and experienced Jayson Werth in right field." The 20-year-old Harper, who spent a lot of time in center last season, Rizzo said, "... needs to learn how to play both left field and right field."

The Nationals' skipper wasn't willing to commit either way when he talked to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore for a late November article. Before making a decision, the manager heading into his 16th season on the bench in the majors told the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore, "'I would probably check with my resident genius Werth and see what his preference is. I'm comfortable with him there [in right]. The young stud could play either one." The Nationals also need to decide where everyone is going to hit.

Davey Johnson was already talking lineups at the Winter Meetings and during his charity golf tournament this winter. Before the Nats brought left-handed slugger Adam LaRoche back on a 2-year/$24M dollar deal, the Nats' skipper said he had talked to Harper about where he might hit in his second major league season. "If we don't re‑sign LaRoche," Johnson told reporters, "I told [Harper], he was at the golf tournament, I might have to hit you cleanup. He said, no, I want to hit third. But he could move out of that No.2 hole because I think he's going to have‑‑ he had a good year last year, but I think he's going to have a breakout year coming up."

Johnson talked this winter about how much he liked having Werth and Harper 1-2 in his lineup in 2012, but after the team acquired Span, he said it would be a question of how he was going to align his hitters behind the prototypical leadoff man the Nationals acquired from the Twins. The Nats' GM predicted a move back to the middle of the lineup for Werth when he discussed the possibilities for his $126M dollar outfielder in an MLB Network Radio interview this winter.

"I think his skill set profiles as a middle-of-the-lineup type of hitter," Rizzo said, "You're a much better team when you have a good leadoff man and Jayson driving in runs in the five-hole or six-hole or wherever it might be for the team."

While he said he was happy doing what he could to help the team at the top of the order when he spoke to reporters including the Washington Post's James Wagner this past weekend at NatsFest, Werth did say that if it was up to him, "'I’d want to hit in the middle of the order. It’s the best place for me. But with the guys we had, I think just for our team that is what was best for us.'" Now that Span is on the roster, it's time to rethink things.

Werth, who didn't admit to running things through the Lerner's computer or doing any sabermetric analysis, told the WaPost's Mr. Wagner that he'd talk things over with Johnson this Spring. "'I think I got like five or six different lineups that we can roll out there,'" Werth says in the article, "'We’ll see what Davey wants to do. I feel confident in every one.'" Will Johnson throw Werth's iPad in the garbage when the outfielder presents his slideshow of ideas for the lineup? Where will Werth hit in 2013? Who's going to hit second after Span? Werth? Ian Desmond?

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