Jayson Werth is not in the starting lineup for Friday night’s game against the Braves — the opener of an important three-game series in Atlanta — because he is “pretty banged up,” according to Nationals Manager Matt Williams. Werth has been playing with a sprained right ankle since July 28 and a bothersome right shoulder for about a week.
Werth, the team’s oldest regular position player at 35, missed one game because of the ankle injury in Miami and left Wednesday’s game with the Nationals leading comfortably because of the shoulder. Those two minor injuries and a lot of playing time — including a 13-inning win on Thursday — convinced Williams to rest Werth on Friday.
In his first season as a major league manager, Williams has learned to decipher what a player says about wanting to play and what he has seen with his own eyes. Werth told Williams he wanted to play.
But “the fact that Jayson was sitting in the hot tub with an ice pack on his shoulder told me a lot,” Williams said with a laugh. “He’ll probably be mad at me for saying that but it tells you a lot. He’s banged up. He’s hurting [Friday]. We need to give him a day off.”
Even though the injuries have lingered, Williams said Werth hasn’t received any tests. The injuries are considered minor, and Werth continues to receive treatment. Williams expects Werth to play Saturday and Sunday before Monday’s off-day.
“It’s not something that’ll require any extra looks at it,” Williams said. “He’s just sore. He’s just banged up. That happens during the course of the season sometimes. You play a lot and we haven’t had many off-days and he’s feeling it right now so we need to give him a day.”
In Werth’s absence, Steven Souza Jr. is making his second career major league start and hitting eighth. Williams opted to keep Bryce Harper in left field because, although Souza has played all over the outfield in the minor leagues, he is most familiar with right field. Souza led Class AAA Syracuse and the International League with a .354/.435/.601 slash line and 18 home runs when he was called up. He is 1 for 11 as a major leaguer.
“He’s had great success this year and he’s got power,” Williams said. “He can run into one. He can drive a run in for us and play good right field. We’ll see what he can do [Friday]. It’ll be good to get him four at-bats because he’s used to doing that.”
To adjust the lineup without Werth, Williams moved Anthony Rendon down from second in the order to third, where Werth normally hits. Williams also moved Asdrubal Cabrera up from seventh to second for the first time against right-handed starter Ervin Santana. Cabrera, like Santana, has spent his entire career in the American League until this season and the two are familiar with each other. Cabrera has 38 plate appearances against Santana and is hitting .206 (7 for 34) with two walks.