08/12/12 1:04 AM ET
Desmond ramps up rehab workload
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
Werth moved up to leadoff spot
PHOENIX -- Jayson Werth was atop the Nationals' lineup on Saturday for the first time this season.Washington manager Davey Johnson has been toying with the idea for some time now, and it may stick even when Ian Desmond comes off the disabled list later this season. Johnson thinks Werth's ability to draw out at-bats, take walks and hit for extra bases makes him well-suited for the leadoff spot, but the way Werth is hitting, he'd fit just about anywhere. Werth is batting .400 with a .500 on-base percentage while slugging .500 in nine games since coming off the disabled list, and the Nats haven't lost a game in which he's played. His slash line this season is .305/.403/.453, and Johnson said the biggest change in his approach is that he's willing to use every part of the field after trying too hard to go to the opposite field last season. "He's attacking the ball," Johnson said. "He's much more of a threat. I like his swing better this year. Everything about him has been great. Everybody in the lineup now is swinging like I know they're capable of doing. That's why it's fun to watch this team now. We've got a chance to score some runs." That change in approach might make his swing look a little shorter than it did last season, when Werth posted a .232/.330/.389 slash line. The best way to hit the ball to the opposite field is to let it get deep into the zone, which naturally lengthens a hitter's swing. But this year, Werth is focusing more on hitting the ball where it's pitched, letting him take a more direct path to the ball. "When you're constantly letting the ball get deep and going the other way, it looks longer because it is longer," Johnson said. "The only way you can get to a ball when it gets even with you is flatten it out and drive the barrel through. When you're hitting the ball where it's pitched, you're shorter and direct to the ball. That's what all good hitters have to do."
Johnson said Friday night Bryce Harper would get the day off Saturday, not because of the way he played Friday, but because he wanted to get Tyler Moore into the lineup against Arizona left-hander Wade Miley. Moore, left without a defined role with Werth back and a full complement of outfielders, hadn't started a game since Aug. 3. The D-backs designated left-hander Mike Zagurski for assignment after Friday's game and recalled Bryan Shaw, leaving them with an entirely right-handed bullpen. Washington had three left-handed hitters and a switch-hitter on its bench for Saturday's game. "It doesn't impact us a whole lot, but certainly, he's going to have a hard time creating the matchups he wants with no left-handers," Johnson said, referring to D-backs manager Kurt Gibson. Steve Lombardozzi said after Friday's four-hit performance that he had made a concerted effort to be more aggressive at the plate, and it paid off. Johnson said Lombardozzi has been working on exactly that with hitting coach Rick Eckstein, trying to get the head of the bat out and hit the ball where it's pitched. Johnson had this to say Friday night about Morse's impressive opposite-field power and his three home runs in two days: "He's starting to look for hard stuff a little better, and he's starting to hit it out front. And when he does that and has full extension, the exhibition he's been putting on in BP the last couple days, he's losing more balls. "I mean, they're not going in the seats, they're going in the concession stands."