ANAHEIM, Calif. — Something always seemed a little off about Jayson Werth’s injury, a prognosis told differently by the left fielder and his manager and from which he was supposed to be able to return this week — then simply did not. On Tuesday, Werth offered more clarity — if not a total explanation — for why the ball he fouled off his foot has cost him six weeks and counting.
Werth has a fracture in the first metatarsal of his left foot, something he knew from the beginning, but that neither he nor the Nationals ever shared. Dusty Baker went as far as to say there was nothing more than a bruise in the foot when asked this past weekend. Baker had said X-rays were negative in the wake of the initial injury, but Werth said his fracture was found with an MRI exam.
But in Werth’s mind, that the foot was fractured did not matter much. According to him, the bone bruise in the area is what is really causing him trouble, preventing the bone from bearing his weight whenever he tries to run. He can throw and took batting practice with teammates on the field Tuesday in Anaheim. But he simply cannot sprint and must be able to do so before he can return.
“[That bone] takes all the force, and when you’re going to run and sprint, you’re dealing with a lot of force and body weight,” Werth said. “We got to a point before the break where we wanted to figure out where we are at, but it just responded poorly to the pressure, so we had to back off a little bit.”
The 37-year-old seemed in fine spirits as he described the trouble in more detail Tuesday, leaning back in a chair in the corner of the visitors’ clubhouse, hair and beard neatly trimmed. But he is anxious, visibly and audibly, because if he had his way he would have been playing “two weeks ago,” but can’t do so yet. Werth said his most recent MRI showed “a lot of healing,” but “a pretty decent fracture,” something the team did not disclose when discussing the injury.
“That’s what happens when you barrel up 96 [mph] off your foot,” said Werth, who did something similar in spring training, which caused a hairline fracture in his toe, but did not miss more than a few days.
“Sometimes you can play with these things, sometimes you can’t. I’ve had tons of injuries, played with cracked ribs, played with broken this and that,” Werth said. “This one is just a little bit different because we’re going to have to wait til it heals to put the pressure on it you would need to sprint.”
For now, Werth is neither fully healed nor fully shut down. He can hit and throw and do all the skill things — those “baseball activities” — but he is not ready to run. If he were just dealing with the fracture, Werth said, his timetable would be more clear. But bone bruises can linger, and his has.
“They take time. If you look up a bone bruise on the Internet, it says two months,” Werth said. “Doesn’t have to be, but because of which bone this is and what it does, just is what it is. It’s going to need to be pretty healed before you test it because if you piss it off, then you’re worried about a stress fracture.”
Two months would put Werth back in the Nationals’ lineup in the first week of August, which seems soon when one considers he hasn’t yet begun a rehab assignment, but not so far when one realizes he is hitting and throwing. Until he can run, he will not go on a rehab assignment. Until he goes on a rehab assignment, he will not return. With a 10-game lead in the division and counting, the Nationals do not need him to rush — though he certainly wishes he could.