Jayson Werth will likely need to play in two to three more minor league rehab games before returning to the Nationals. Originally, the Nationals had hoped for Werth to return by the first week of August, and that still could be the case, but likely not until the end of the week.
Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said he hopes Werth could return by the end of a seven-game home stand that ends Sunday. Werth went down with a broken left wrist in early May and began his rehab assignment on July 21.
The Nationals have been cautious not to rush Werth back, instead relying on the outfielder to set his schedule, where he rehabs and feel out how his wrist responds to playing. The Nationals want Werth to feel completely healthy and aren’t as worried about his performance in the minors.
“He feels like he could play but he’s not quite 100 percent,” Johnson said.
Werth played one game with Class A Potomac and then seven games with Class AAA Syracuse, going 5 for 21 with four runs driven in.
“He looked great,” Chad Tracy said of Werth, who rehabbed with him in Syracuse and was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. “I have nothing but good things to say about him. The last couple days, he’s really, really looked good. He’s ready.”
Werth has only played a full nine innings in a game so far and the Nationals hope to test him out with consecutive games. Roger Bernadina, the primary fill-in outfielder, has played well, starting eight of the past nine games and has 11 hits in his last 30 at-bats.
“[Werth is] going to go out and play a couple of nine-inning games back-to-back and we’ll see where he’s at after that,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “But he’s in good spirits and says he feels good with a little normal soreness but I think he’s well on his way to coming back.”
The Nationals have been relying on one less bench player and using an eight-man bullpen since reliever Drew Storen was activated from the disabled list on July 19. When Werth returns, a 25-man roster spot would have to be created for him.
Johnson said he wasn’t ready to name which player may have to accommodate Werth’s return. But he said he likes the way his bullpen is arranged and may be looking to add to it when rosters expand in September. This offers a clue that instead maybe Tyler Moore may be sent down to minors to make room — and potentially call him back up in a few weeks.