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Jayson Werth is 5-for-12 with five walks since returning from the DL.
As it turns out, Werth's only transition has been from cautious optimism to downright giddiness after a fantastic re-debut weekend at Nationals Park. In his first four games back, the veteran outfielder is 5-for-12 with five walks, all but erasing whatever doubts there were about his ability to make a smooth return from a devastating injury.
"I'm surprised," Werth admitted after yesterday's 4-1 win over the Marlins. "The whole thing's very surprising."
Not that he didn't expect to ever get his swing back. He just figured it would take a little more time before he felt comfortable facing big-league pitchers again.
Werth pointed out he was cleared to swing a bat only about three weeks ago.
"I kept trying to swing, kept trying to swing, and just wasn't ready," he said. "And then one day I was like: 'Oh, I can swing.' And then two days later I was like: 'I can really swing!'"
Werth began his rehab assignment at Class A Potomac on July 21. He wound up playing a total of nine games over 12 days, most of that time spent at Class AAA Syracuse, and about halfway through the process began to feel like his timing at the plate had returned.
Even so, Werth figured he would still need more time to get his body (especially his legs) back into full baseball shape.
"Sometimes that takes a while," he said. "You go to spring training for six weeks, and usually the last week your legs show up. So that's five weeks [waiting for it to happen]. I think I was out [on rehab] for two weeks, not even. So my legs are still a little behind. But everything else feels good."
It's hard to dispute the on-field results since Werth was activated off the DL. Splitting time between center and right fields, he's recorded at least one hit in all four games he's played. His keen eye at the plate is as sharp as ever, leading to five walks. Perhaps most impressively, he has only struck out once.
"His every at-bat is good," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's making contact. He's getting the head out. He's always a great defensive player and baserunner."
Werth has essentially picked up where he left off upon getting hurt on May 6. In 31 total games this season, he's now hitting .291 with a .400 on-base percentage and .836 OPS.
On top of all that, Werth seems as comfortable and relaxed as he's been since signing with the Nationals 19 months ago. Having long since moved past his disappointing 2011, he's become less of a focal point inside a clubhouse that features plenty more prominent names and faces, allowing Werth to be just another member of a first-place club.
"He's playing the way I always thought he was going to play," Johnson said. "I didn't see that last year. He was trying to be the leader on the ballclub. He had all kinds of different responsibilities. Now he's just being himself."