There was some sort-of good news on Saturday. Jayson Werth was a late scratch from the lineup for a reason that wasn't immediately apparent. Injuries, as those who traffic in cliches will tell you, are part of the game, but with the way things have been going in Washington this season, most Nationals fans likely assumed the worst when the Nats announced that Werth would not play the third game of four with the visiting Colorado Rockies.
Davey Johnson told reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, before the game that Werth had been working with "physical therapist Dr. Keith Pyne," in recent days though he didn't specify a particular area of focus or concern, only saying he didn't think it had anything to do with the hamstring injury that landed Werth on the DL earlier this season.
Johnson did, however, comment on Werth maybe needing to work on his "mental approach":
"It’s no secret I think this game’s 90 percent mental. Anything you do in life, if you have the right mental approach to it. It’s easier. I like to see good mental approaches and good, positive attitudes. That’s the root of success in any business. Really, in baseball, you can talk yourself into a good hitting streak."
Since returning from the DL, Werth has a .250/.318/.433 line with two doubles and three home runs in 16 games and 66 plate appearances. After a .273/.368/.515 road trip, Werth was 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in the first two games with Colorado and looked lost at the plate at times against the Rockies. Updating reporters on Werth's health after the 7-1 loss to the Rockies, Johnson said that it was actually flu-like symptoms that kept the outfielder out of the lineup.
"He told me had some sort of flu," Johnson said, "He had the chills." The manager said he hadn't seen Werth during the game so he must have stayed inside throughout the afternoon. There was no mention of when he might be available to return to the lineup.
Werth was quoted in a recent article by ESPN's Jayson Stark talking about the entire team's mental approach, saying that in a way things may have come too easily for the NL East Champion Nationals in 2012. "'Last year, we cruised,'" Werth tells ESPN.com's Mr. Stark, "'You don't learn how to win that way.'" Will the lessons the 37-37 Nationals are learning now help them out in the second half of the 2013 season? The Nats' outfielder said he thought they might, recalling how two teams he played on in Philadelphia fought back after starting the final month of the season seven games out in the division:
"And I feel like that's where we learned how to win. Those teams knew how to win. That's what made us so good. And I think that's where we gained that knowledge, by coming from behind and being in a situation where you couldn't lose any games."
Having their right fielder in the lineup, and eventually getting Bryce Harper back as well, will certainly help the Nationals as they attempt to defend their NL East crown. When they both, hopefully, step back on the field together and get back to doing what they did together at the plate in the second half last season, it will be the first time Harper and Werth have played in the lineup together since May 2nd.
Werth's back in the lineup for the series finale with the Rockies this afternoon:
#Nationals lineup vs. COL: Kobernus 8, Rendon 4, Zimmerman 5, Werth 9, Desmond 6, Marrero 3, Suzuki 2, Lombardozzi 7, Detwiler 1— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) June 23, 2013