Jayson Werth has been credited, in the years since he signed a sort-of out-of-nowhere, 7-year/$126M contract with the Washington Nationals, with changing the culture in the nation's capital. When he was asked earlier this season about his reputation as a leader in the Nats' clubhouse and what it meant to him, however, Werth was clear that in his mind it didn't mean anything. "Absolutely nothing," he said.
"I'm just another guy," Werth explained.
"We've got a bunch of guys in there that are leaders in their own way. We've got guys that lead by example, we've got guys that are a little more outspoken, but I'm just one of twenty-five in there, just having a good time."
While he may be having a good time, it hasn't been easy going for the recently-turned 36-year-old outfielder who had offseason surgery on his shoulder that delayed the start of his fifth season in the nation's capital.
Through 27 games, the veteran outfielder put up a .208/.294/.287 line with two doubles and two home runs in 119 plate appearances before he was hit by a pitch during the Nationals' series in San Diego two weeks back now.
While the initial X-rays were negative and a subsequent MRI revealed no broken bones or ligament damage, Werth still decided to visit the doctor who performed surgery on his wrist in 2005.
As several reports yesterday noted, the news was not good.
A CT scan reportedly revealed "two small fractures" in the wrist which will keep the veteran outfielder out of the lineup until August.
While neither Werth or the Nationals have confirmed the reports as of this moment, if true, the diagnosis is a serious blow to both the team and the player who injured the same wrist in 2012 when he broke it on a sliding play in the outfield.
It took a while for the power to return following the last injury to his wrist, though it did eventually come back, but two months off in the middle of a season during which he'll likely be limited in what he can do with the wrist won't help.
The Nationals have options, of course. Though they've used Michael Taylor, Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson in left while Werth has been out over the last two weeks, the latest news puts them in a position of having to make a tough decision going forward.
Do they make a move to bring in an established everyday outfielder, or go with one of their in-house options on a more regular basis?
Taylor, who looks now to be the likeliest option to take over in center eventually, when and if Denard Span leaves the Nationals, has impressed in limited action, and would seem to be the likeliest option if the Nationals are going to go with a steady fill-in in left field.
Werth himself talked about Taylor's growth earlier this season when asked about the 24-year-old outfielder's development over the last few years.
"A couple years ago I was rehabbing down in Potomac and he was there and I really liked his swing," Werth said.
"I liked him as a player but I just felt like he needed to develop a little bit more and last year he had a big year, hit a bunch of home runs and when he came up I thought he was pretty polished, so I think he has a chance to be a big player, especially with the power he's shown in Spring Training and so far this season, but there's a lot to like there, he does a lot of things that can help us win."
Can Taylor produce offensively given regular at bats though? Through 102 plate appearances this season, Taylor has connected for four doubles and three home runs, one a grand slam in Arizona that caught everyone's attention, but he's also struck out 38 times (37.3% K%), and put up just a .219/.265/.375 line, though as noted above, that's not too far off what Werth has been able to do offensively thus far.
Will consistent at bats allow Taylor to get in a groove and produce more consistently?
The Nationals may find out over the next few months, since Taylor is clearly a superior option defensively to Moore and Robinson and maybe even Werth at this point.
While Werth has played a big role in changing the culture over the last few years, it looks like at least for the next two months or so, as Nats' GM Mike Rizzo put it early this season, it's going to be Michael Taylor time.