Posted on August 28, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Washington Nationals are getting back two of their most important pieces if they expect to make any noise in this year’s postseason. On Monday, the Nationals activated both outfielder Jayson Werth and ace Max Scherzer from the DL. Scherzer is obviously the more important player for the Nationals. However, Werth returns after a much longer stint on the DL and may make more of an immediate impact.
Werth has been on the DL for nearly three months. He suffered a broken foot in early June. His recovery was much slower than the Nationals would have liked. But they found a way to cope with his absence as best they could. Adam Lind and Howie Kendrick have split much of the time in left field. Journeyman Alejandro De Aza and rookie Andrew Stevenson also helped out.
Before the injury, Werth was enjoying a resurgent season after a couple of down years. The 38-year old is hitting .262 with an OPS of .814. In 47 games before the injury, Werth had contributed eight home runs and five doubles. Werth went 3 for 13 in six minor league rehab games over the past week. The Nationals now feel that he’s finally ready to return after nearly three months on the shelf.
With Werth back and Michael Taylor also returning from the DL earlier this month, Washington’s outfield is nearly at full strength. The lone missing piece, of course, is MVP candidate Bryce Harper. The Nationals remain hopeful that Harper will be back before the end of the season after suffering an ugly knee injury earlier this month. For now, the Nationals will continue to rely on the likes of Kendrick and De Aza in right field. But having Werth back should help by providing another power threat in the middle of the order.
Meanwhile, Scherzer is set to start Monday against the Marlins after a short stint on the DL. Scherzer has been hampered by neck problems a couple of times this summer. During a start on August 1, he was limited to just one inning of work because of neck stiffness. After his last bout of neck trouble, the Nationals decided to give him 10 days on the DL to rest up. In his start Monday, he’ll look to show that his neck issues are a thing of the past.
With Stephen Strasburg also returning from the DL earlier this month, the Nationals are hoping to get their rotation in order heading down the stretch. Scherzer is in the midst of another Cy Young-caliber campaign, while Strasburg has also pitched well when healthy. In addition to those two, Gio Gonzalez is having one of his best seasons in recent memory. Tanner Roark has also performed well since the all-star break. If the Nationals can keep those four pitchers healthy, they’ll have a formidable rotation heading into the playoffs.
Right now, getting healthy and staying healthy for the postseason is Washington’s top priority. The Nationals hold a 12-game lead over the Marlins atop the NL East. That should allow them to coast to a second straight division title. If the Nationals can get players like Harper, Trea Turner, and a couple others back before the end of the season without losing anyone else to injury, they’ll be in good shape heading into October. The return of Werth and Scherzer on Monday is a big step in the right direction.