“I think that’s really up to him,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I think he knows his body really better than anybody, and I’m not as concerned with him having to get three hits a ballgame down there. I’m concerned that he feels mentally that he can go out there and not get hurt running around the outfield and having four at-bats. When he feels like he’s ready for that, then we’ll call him up.”
In four games at Syracuse, Werth has gone 0 for 12 with five strikeouts and three walks. Friday night, Werth played six innings and took three at-bats, his most extensive action in a single game yet. Afterward, “He was a little tender, his hand was a little sore,” Johnson said.
Werth has no need to rush back. Even without Werth, who was hitting .276/.372/.439 when he went down May 6, the Nationals’ offense has been one of the best in the majors this month. Roger Bernadina, Werth’s primary fill-in at this point, is 20 for his last 48. Regardless, the Nationals will be caution with Werth.
“Again, no matter what we were doing here, we want to make sure that he’s up to speed so he’s not going to get hurt running back out there,” Johnson said. “It’s always more about injury, for me, than performance down there.”
Pinch-hitting specialist Chad Tracy will also continue his rehab assignment tonight at Syracuse, hitting third and playing first. Tracy is “father along than Jayson,” Johnson said, and there is a strong chance he will return Tuesday after missing the past two months following groin surgery. Tracy played eight innings at third base last night.
When Tracy comes off the disabled list, Corey Brown appears the most likely candidate to be optioned back to Syracuse. When Werth comes back, the Nationals could option Craig Stammen or Ryan Mattheus, both relievers with options working in an eight-man bullpen. But they have both been largely excellent, and the Nationals may instead option Tyler Moore.
The Nationals could bring back whichever players they option to make room for Werth and Tracy when rosters expand in September, anyway.