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Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker on Jayson Werth: "He's like a vintage sports car..."

Jayson Werth started slow, but he's showing signs of life on the field and at the plate in the 14th major league season for the Washington Nationals' 36-year-old outfielder. Dusty Baker is taking a patient approach and waiting for Werth to get it going...

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In the series opener with Minnesota this past Friday night, Jayson Werth hit a fifth inning home run off Twins' reliever Michael Tonkin for the eighth run Washington scored in an 8-4 win in Nationals Park.

Werth went 2 for 3 with a walk at the plate on Friday, leaving him 9 for 45 with three doubles and three home runs in 53 plate appearances this season, over which the 36-year-old outfielder has walked seven times and struck out 14 times.

He left that game early, prompting questions for Nats' skipper Dusty Baker about whether or not the hamstring issue that cost him a game last week was acting up again.

"We're working on that with the trainers and the doctors, we're working hard and trying to stay healthy, stay on the field." -Jayson Werth on wanting to stay in the lineup and be a part of things

"It was more precaution because we had the lead and we've got an early game tomorrow, day after night," Baker said, "and so I thought it was best that we take him out of the game."

"Leg's been feeling good," Werth told reporters after the win.

"I had to come out the other day with a little tightness, but we're working on that with the trainers and the doctors, we're working hard and trying to stay healthy, stay on the field. Dusty is doing a good job with all that too. It's a long season, we've got a long way to go. I want to be a part of this thing."

He didn't have much to say about the home run he hit, or the walk he took as part of the Nationals' three-run first.

"I found myself with two strikes again," he said when asked about the at bat that led to the blast.

"The guy got ahead of me and ended up hanging a slider... but that really wasn't the story. I think jumping on them for four runs in the first, I think that really set the tone for the night and gave Gio [Gonzalez] a little room to work with and he pitched great and the defense was good and we started off the series 1-0, so it was good."

"Like I've told people, he's like a vintage sports car that takes some time to get loose and some time to get warm." -Dusty Baker on Jayson Werth

He also took away a home run, leaping at the left field wall to bring a potential Byron Buxton blast back into the field of play in the third.

"He timed that homer like -- you could tell he played basketball," Baker said. "He timed it like a rebound. That's why I always encourage kids to play other sports, because they intertwine at some point in time..."

"He is one of the premier athletes in the country. You can tell that he played other sports. His legs were underneath him tonight. He hit a big homer and so it looks like he's warming up, but we've still got to watch him and pay attention. He still has a couple of nagging injuries, but he's getting better."

After starting slow (3 for 27, .136/.296/.273) in the first seven games this season, the 14-year veteran is 8 for 32 (.250/.333/.563) with four doubles and two home runs in 26 PAs.

In an MLB Network Radio on Monday, Baker talked more about how important it is to keep Werth healthy and in the lineup.

"Not only in the lineup, but he means a lot to this team," Baker said, "because he's one of the real leaders on this team and the guys follow him and he likes that leadership role. And the thing about it, like I've told people, he's like a vintage sports car that takes some time to get loose and some time to get warm.

"The kids, they're wide open, the younger players, in a couple weeks, but it takes the older players, the veterans a month or so to get going, but once they get it they keep it for a long period of time.

"My whole thing with him and [Ryan Zimmerman] is to get them to the warm weather. If we can get them to the warm weather, their muscles feel better and everything. Their bones feel better and I think these guys are going to have great years and we just have to be patient with them."

Werth and the Nationals start a three-game set with the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at 7:05 PM EDT.

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