clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Can the Nationals keep Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth in the lineup in 2016?

New, 28 comments

Ryan Zimmerman wants to play at least 150 games in 2016. Jayson Werth says he's determined to get off to a strong start after dealing with injury issues last season. Can the Washington Nationals keep their veteran bats in the lineup?

Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth played 95 and 88 games, respectively, in 2015. In an MLB Network Radio interview earlier this month, Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked about the importance of keeping the Nats' veterans on the field in 2016 after Zimmerman, Werth, Anthony Rendon, Denard Span and others missed significant time last season. What are the chances of getting 155 games out of Zimmerman and Werth in particular?

Werth missed time while recovering from offseason surgery on his shoulder, then suffered broken bones in his wrist on a hit-by-pitch.

"For us to get where we want to get they all have to play a vital part of what they're doing. One hundred and fifty-five [games] I think is a little aggressive for those guys to play." -Mike Rizzo on keeping Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman healthy

Zimmerman dealt with plantar fasciitis in his left foot which led to a prolonged DL stint, then suffered an oblique injury which ended his season in early September.

"For us to get where we want to get they all have to play a vital part of what they're doing," Rizzo said. "One hundred and fifty-five [games] I think is a little aggressive for those guys to play. They've got to consistently be in the lineup. Zim really does protect [Bryce] Harper in the lineup. He's a terrific run-producer. He's got one of those abilities that he can just drive in runs. A lot of times without getting a hit, with making an out, but he drives in runs.

"He had a stretch there where he was putting together a terrific season for him and then the oblique again something that popped up. We need both of those guys to come and play the majority of the season the way they're capable of playing. Jayson Werth is a year removed from getting MVP votes, so we need for him to bounce back and there's not a whole lot you can do with getting hit on the wrist with a pitch and breaking your wrist, but it was unfortunate for him but we get him back and get him healthy. He takes care of his body as good as anybody that I've ever been around and as far as for a player of his age, is in terrific shape. Zim has had some unfortunate and kind of unlucky injuries also, so get those both, they're both middle the lineup hitters for us and we need them healthy."

In an effort to keep all of their players healthy as possible, the Nationals have rebuilt their medical staff this winter with Rizzo explaining that they've assembled, "... a cutting edge, expansive, innovative health system that's going to be in place that's going to be all-inclusive and hopefully will reap benefits.

"We think that that's the next frontier," he added

"Maybe the next Moneyball," Rizzo explained in introducing the medical staff last month, "keeping players on the field."

Keeping the players healthy, and managing their playing time is something Dusty Baker has said he'll be focused on from the start this Spring.

"That's my job," Baker said this past weekend.

"That's my job because I've run this race more than they have. They have to trust me. They have to trust me that I know what's best for them in the long run. I'm going to ask their opinion, but in the end, I'm going to do what I want. Which I think is best for you."

"I've run this race more than they have. They have to trust me. They have to trust me that I know what's best for them in the long run." -Dusty Baker on trying to keep his players healthy

Both Zimmerman and Werth talked this weekend about being impressed with what the Nats are trying to do in building up the medical staff.

"I think technology and science is a big part of every sport," Zimmerman said. "I've only been in the game for ten years and it's changed dramatically since I've been here, so I can't imagine what it's like for trainers or doctors, or even a guy like Dusty that's been in baseball for much longer than I have. But sports are one of those things where you have to evolve and you have to keep up with the times I guess is the best way to put it or you're going to get passed by. That doesn't mean you have to implement every thing that someone tells you, but you kind of have to know what your body is like and pick and choose what of the new techniques you think can help you."

"It's going to be pretty interesting," Werth told reporters.

"They're doing some forward-thinking stuff and some analytical stuff that hasn't really been done before in baseball. I think it's been done in other sports, but we're kind of leading the way in that, it's exciting."

Zimmerman said he's well aware of the importance of staying healthy and keeping his bat in the lineup.

"The last two, three years have been frustrating for me," he said. "Nobody wants to be on the field more than I want to be on the field. Unfortunately, some of those things happen. It's not only the amount of work you put in, sometimes it's... some of it is bad luck, some of it is just -- it's hard to go 10-15 years without getting hurt. Unfortunately for me it's happened two or three years in a row, but the goal this year is to stay on the field and see what I can do with 145-150 games."

Werth said that some of the problems he dealt with were just bad luck and the issues he dealt with played a big role in how his season went.

"[Injuries] probably had a lot to do with it. I felt like I was kind of unlucky too. And that's just kind of how our season went. It was just one of those years. This year I'll have a full winter of training and get back to the shape that I'm accustomed to coming into the season in.

"Started the [2015] season kind of still rehabbing my shoulder and about the time I started getting going, I broke my wrist. And sometimes, in the past, wrist injuries, they've taken -- it takes time.

"Just because you're healthy doesn't mean you're 100%. But I think all that's behind me. I've got a full winter to get strong and get in all the workouts that I usually get in, so I plan on coming in the best shape I've ever been in and having a big year."

Zimmerman said when he did come back from the plantar fasciitis he felt better than he had in a while.

"I actually thought when I came back from the foot I was playing probably the best baseball I've played since '08 or '09 before the shoulder and all of that stuff and I felt great and then obviously the little oblique thing or whatever that just wouldn't go away, so that was encouraging to come back and play the way I played, give me some confidence now to kind of roll that over into this season and do the little things that we were doing to get where I was and hopefully have a whole season of that.

"My job is to drive in runs, whether I hit .240 or .340 as long as I drive in runs that's what I'm really supposed to do and last year I thought I did a really good job of that, I just need to stay on the field." -Ryan Zimmerman on driving in runs, goals in 2015

"Hitting behind Bryce and seeing how they pitch him and rightfully so, and having a guy on base pretty much every time I went to bat and them challenging me instead of him -- which obviously most teams are going to do -- and I took that as a challenge and enjoyed it. My job is to drive in runs, whether I hit .240 or .340 as long as I drive in runs that's what I'm really supposed to do and last year I thought I did a really good job of that, I just need to stay on the field."

Werth was asked at Nats WinterFest, if he thought at 37, he could still be an everyday player?

"At some point it's not going to be the case," he acknowledged. "It's just the reality of it. Until I feel like I can't play every day, I have no other reason to think I can't go out there and do what I've always done, so I feel good, I feel healthy. The wrist thing is tricky. I've had three surgeries and four fractures. It's a real thing. You can't outrun Father Time. I know I'm at the end of my career, more so than the beginning, so I know at some point, but I don't feel like I'm slowing down any time soon."

Zimmerman said in spite of the injuries, he was able to get comfortable at first base in his first season playing full time at the position.

"I felt really comfortable there," he said. "As the season went on, I started to kind of know where I'm supposed to be and get a little more comfortable as far as playing away from the base a little bit with all the new shifts and everything like that. Would it have been nice to have 50 or 60 more games over there, yeah, of course, but I think I played enough over there and got comfortable enough to the point where I have confidence that if I continue to work I think I can become a pretty good first baseman."

Zimmerman hasn't played 150 games since 2008, though he's topped 140 three times since then. In the last two years, he hasn't topped 100.

Werth, played 147 games in 2014, 129 in 2013, 150 in 2011 in his first season in D.C.

Can they stay healthy and in the lineup in 2016? The Nationals need them on the field on a daily basis throughout the season, but can they count on them at this point in each of their careers?

Like Baker has said previously, it's going to be especially important that the Nationals have depth in case their front line players don't get healthy, but they want them on the field as much as possible.

"I think we've got to get some guys hopefully have better fortune with injuries than we've had the last couple of years," Baker said. "And some of that's luck, and some of that's hopefully we can start training them early or training them differently in order to stay healthy because, let's face it, if I can keep my front line guys on the field more than yours, there's a good chance of our team winning."