Werth also introduced the Nationals to a chiropractor, Keith Pyne, whose clinic specializes in neuromuscular structural integration.
Newcomer Dan Haren visited Pyne before spring training, and he said the consultation made his hip and back feel freer.
“We did a lot of work in the front office on, what’s the new way of competing and beating teams?” Rizzo said. “We came up with a strategy that we think helps and gives us a little edge and keeps people on the field.”
‘I’m here to win’
Teammates say Werth’s demeanor has not wavered, that he was the same person when he struggled in 2011 as when he became one of league’s toughest outs down the stretch last year. They can also see why someone with his attention to detail would have been tested by the transition to a new team.
“Watching him and seeing how meticulous he is with his routine, almost to a fault sometimes, where if something doesn’t go right, he’s like, ‘Aaargh!’ ” Zimmerman said. “That’s fine. I know I keep saying consistency, but that’s what I think of when I think of him.”
As Werth settled in and moved his family to town, his play improved. The surge culminated with perhaps the greatest at-bat in Washington’s baseball history, the 13-pitch marathon he ended with a walk-off homer in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He kind of has that ‘I don’t care’ attitude,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Like, ‘We’re going to go out there and we’re going to be loose, and we’re going to have fun, and we’re going to kick some butt.’ ”
Last spring, Werth slipped a paper nameplate reading “NAMATH 12” above Harper’s locker, a reference to the 20-year-old outfielder saying in an interview he wanted to be like Joe Namath. This year, minor league infielder Zach Walters walked past Werth in the clubhouse with neon green shoelaces in his sneakers. “Nice laces,” Werth said. “Change them.” Walters did.
“He’s not going to come in and greet you with open arms, because you have to earn your keep,” said Tyler Moore, a rookie last season. “You kind of grow into it.”
The Nationals know Werth now, regardless of how it happened. During the conversation Friday morning by the batting cage, he considered the question of whether he changes to let people in, or if it’s that people warm to him. But only for a moment.
“I don’t know,” Werth said. “Nor do I care, really. I’m here to win. I’m here to play baseball. I’m not here to make friends. I’m not here to be your pal. I’m here to win.”