Jayson Werth played his fourth straight game in Class A Potomac on Saturday; he further tested his improving hamstring and remained on track to rejoin the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.
Werth played five innings, a shortened performance so that he could play close to nine innings on Sunday, which he expects to be the final game of his rehab stint before coming off the disabled list.
Werth went 2 for 3 with a run scored and played right field. His movement on the field ranged from, mostly, light jogging to running. He jogged to first on his first single and ran harder on his second hit, a bloop single that dropped into right field. He scored from second on a single in the third inning, running hard and sliding into home plate. He jogged lightly out of the batter’s box in his fifth inning popout.
“I’ve progressed each day,” Werth said of the hamstring. “I feel better and better and I think we’re at a point. I scored from second on a base hit and I’ve been moving around and playing the outfield. That last 10 percent is really what I was looking for and I think I’m at a spot where I can be confident and play my game without worrying about getting injured.”
As the Nationals placed Bryce Harper on the disabled list and awaited word on the strained oblique of ace Stephen Strasburg, they promoted top prospect Anthony Rendon to Class AAA Syracuse, where he will play both third base and second base.
Rendon, widely regarded as one of the top 30 prospects in baseball, has played five games at second base this year at Class AA Harrisburg.
The Nationals will continue to play Rendon in a “rotation” between second and third, Director of Player Development Doug Harris said, but they seem intent on playing Rendon at second base more extensively at Syracuse.
“I don’t know that it’s going to be a hard-and-fast 50-50,” Harris said. “But we want to expose him to some different game situations that he hasn’t been exposed to. There might be a week where he plays more at third than at second. And there might be a week where it’s vice-versa.”
The decision to play Rendon more often at second is particularly compelling because of the struggles of Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa. As Espinosa has played with a tear in his left rotator cuff and a bone chip in his right wrist, he has a .164 batting average and doesn’t have an extra-base hit in his past 51 plate appearances. If the Nationals decide Espinosa will not be able to turn his season around, Rendon could become another option beside backup Steve Lombardozzi to replace him.
The Nationals promoted Rendon with the idea of fine-tuning his hitting ability for the major league level. Rendon has been dominant in his 116 at-bats at Harrisburg; he batted .319 with a .461 slugging percentage. At Syracuse, Rendon will play for Manager Tony Beasley, a long-time infield coach.
Nationals infield coordinator Jeff Garber also is currently at Syracuse.
“It’s an opportunity to have him be around players who have had a lot of major league experience in different ways,” Harris said. “There’s a different maturity in the clubhouse. The biggest thing is, you have pitchers in that league, particularly this time of year, who can attack a hitter and execute based on weaknesses.”
Rendon has little professional or college experience at second, but Manager Davey Johnson has worked with him one-on-one on second base drills the past two spring trainings. His exceptionally quick hands and strong instincts have convinced the Nationals he could play any infield position. Rendon has fractured both of his ankles, the only hang-up to him playing a position susceptible to base runners sliding into his vulnerable legs.
In an eight-game major league cameo at third base this season with Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, Rendon swatted six hits, including a double, and drew five walks in 30 plate appearances.