Jayson Werth spoke at length about his legal issues with Washington Post columnist Adam Kilgore at the start of Spring Training so he could address his conviction for reckless driving and the five-day jail sentence he served this winter and put it behind him.
The 35-year-old Washington Nationals' outfielder, who'll turn 36 in May, was also forced to undergo shoulder surgery to clean out the AC joint in his right shoulder in January.
When he talked to reporters yesterday, as the Nationals went through their first full-squad workout of the Spring, Werth said he would take things slowly, but he was still optimistic about being ready for Opening Day:
"'We've really got to get to that eight week point before you can really ramp up anything, and then again, it's eight to 12 weeks before you can really get back to normal activity,'" Werth said. "'We're getting there. We're progressing. It's getting better. But (we've) still got a ways to go.'"
Nationals' manager Matt Williams said what really impressed him about Werth yesterday, was the fact that the 12-year veteran was out on the field with his teammates in spite of the fact that he couldn't participate in drills because of his shoulder.
"The good thing I saw out of Jayson today was, he's unable at this point, he's in his rehab mode, but he was out there," Williams said.
"He's out there in the outfield for drills. He's doing what he can, but he's with his teammates and that's a really important thing. Often times, it's really easy for the guy that's on the DL, or the guy that's really not participating right now just to hang and work with the trainers and stay away from all that, but the fact that he was out there is really important for us. We didn't force him to be out there. He did it on his own.
"That's a great sign for our team that he was out there doing what he can and being with his teammates, imparting some knowledge to the young guys and being a part of it in that way until he can get back to playing status and go."
Werth's presence alone, Williams explained, is helpful, because he has a lot that he can pass on to his teammates.
"He's a pro," the second-year skipper said. "He knows what to do. He's been in the war, man, he understands it. I think it has a ripple effect for all of us. He's a professional baseball player in every aspect. Puts together a fantastic at bat, he's knowledgeable, he does all the things on the baseball field that are right and he's a vital part of our team even when he's not playing."
Williams spoke to Werth about his trying winter, but told reporters on Thursday, it was a personal conversation.
"I've spoken with Jayson long before today, and that's between us," he said.
He was, however, willing to share details of the outfielder's rehab that he's talked about with Werth and the Nats' trainers.
"In talking about his program with everybody, the swinging will probably come first," Williams said. "So he'll be able to swing a little bit before he can actually let her go with the arm. But he's working the process and he's going through all the things that he needs to go through in the rehab and it won't be long before he's out there playing and doing the things that he wants to do. I know that he wants to do it as quickly as possible because he takes a while to get going in Spring Training. Generally, early on in his at bats, he takes a lot of pitches. He doesn't necessarily walk up there and whack the first one that they throw in there. So that process is kind of his mantra. So being behind the eight-ball a little bit, we don't want him to rush through that and not be prepared when he's ready to go."
Werth's been through it all before though, and he knows what he needs to do to get ready for the grind of a major league campaign. Williams said they would take things slowly and try to make sure the left fielder is ready for his 13th season in the majors and his fifth season in the nation's capital, but it would be determined by Werth and how comfortable he is going forward.
"I think it's his comfort level," Williams explained. "He could probably rush that part of it, but it's not what he does. So, that being said, I want him to get into games. I want to get him to the point where he's getting two at bats and out, regardless of where he's at in his rehab. And regardless of where we're at in the process to get through Spring Training to Opening Day.
"So we'll talk about that a lot, I would imagine, over the next six weeks here and understanding that he's got to make sure he's healthy and make sure that he is ready to go when he says so and that there is no question behind any of the decisions that are made. When he steps on the field the first time that he's ready to do it."