New uniform, but plenty still the same for Werth

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New uniform, but plenty still the same for Werth

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 11:38 p.m.

By John R. Finger
CSNPhilly.com

WASHINGTON For a player who has been around as much as Matt Stairs, certain things have a tendency to stand out. A part of 12 different big league teams over 19 seasons, Stairs can see when a player has let the fame and money go to his ego when he finally gets that payday.

To be sure, though, Stairs has played with very few players that have received contracts as lucrative as the one his Phillies and now Nationals teammate Jayson Werth got last December. Seven years, 126 million and a guaranteed choice of uniform No. 28 could lead a guy to go wild, but in this case, says Stairs, nothing has changed.

Hes the same guy, Stairs said from the cozy home clubhouse in Nationals Park hours before his team was to host the Phillies on Tuesday night. He still loves to play and he wants to win.

Of course the Phillies fans that turned out to boo Werth dont necessarily believe that, considering he took the most money to play for a franchise that hasnt had a winning season since 2003 in a city that hasnt seen a .500 team since 1969.

No, this isnt like Werth left Philadelphia for Baseball Heaven.

Instead, Werth is the poster boy in Washington. Literally. On the parking garage just beyond the leftfield concourse there is a three-story high mural of the slugger following through on a swing as if he had laced one over the office buildings surrounding the park.

Perhaps its that huge picture and what it represents that Werth was most after.

It is a big picture. I was surprised to see a picture of myself that big, Werth said. I remember when I played in L.A. down the foul lines near the parking lots, at the time I think in 05 it was J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent. I always remember telling myself, One day, thats going to be me, so here I am.

Leader of the Nats
Yep, here he is, in Washington, D.C. where his rugged image is being used to help market the team. The team owners, the Lerner Family, brought in Werth as part of Phase II of the rebuilding process that began with signing big-time prospects Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper before ridding the team of players that werent great for team chemistry. So with the youngsters like Ian Desmond, Drew Storen, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa, the Nats brought aboard playoff-tested veterans like Ivan Rodriguez, Livan Hernandez, Rick Ankiel and, of course, Stairs and Werth.

If you look around, there really arent too many young guys in here, said Stairs, who turned 43 in February and has no plans to quit anytime soon. This is a veteran team with a lot of guys who have been around.

In that sense Werth, now playing for his fifth organization (Baltimore, Toronto, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington), says the Nats remind him a bit of the Phillies when he was plunked off the scrap heap by then-GM Pat Gillick.

You have to change the culture of an organization that hasnt won, Werth explained. When I came to Philly in 07, when you played the Mets (in Philadelphia) it was like 50-50 with Mets fans and Phillies fans. And over the course of four years there, theres no more Mets fans. Its going to take 25 guys going in the same direction.

Apparently, Werth has been integral in that regard, too. During spring training there was an incident where combustible outfielder Nyjer Morgan decided he didnt want to run wind sprints with the team following a Grapefruit League game. After Werth told Morgan to finish his work, a verbal altercation broke out and two days later, Morgan was traded to Milwaukee for minor leaguer Cutter Dykstra.

That certainly was part of changing the chemistry that several Nationals players spoke about before Tuesdays game. Again, in that regard, Werth says things really arent that different than they were in Philadelphia.

Not a whole lot, Werth said about the differences in the two clubhouses. Obviously, you got Chase (Utley) and Howie (Ryan Howard) and J. Roll (Jimmy Rollins) and Shane (Victorino) and Raul (Ibanez) and Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) and Polly (Placido Polanco). Those are some big names there, so you kind of blend in a little bit no matter who you are. Here, theyve had Zim (Ryan Zimmerman) for a long time and he has played that role. Having me here kind of takes the pressure off him a little bit. It helps him out. Its not that big of a deal. Playing in the market over there in Philly and playing in the postseason as many times as we did the biggest stage the pressure of the postseason definitely outweighs the pressure of the regular season by a hundred, so its not that challenging.

Travels with Charlie
That doesnt mean Werth didnt feel a little bit of pressure on Tuesday night. Going against his old team for the first time was a highly anticipated event and certainly will take a bit before games against the Phillies are no big deal. In the meantime, Werth spent a long time in the tunnel between the indoor batting cages chatting with a bunch of his old teammates many of whom he hadnt seen since the last game of the 2010 NLCS.

More than anyone else, Werth was happy to see his former manager Charlie Manuel. The pair had a pretty strong relationship over Werths four years in Philly. Interestingly, Manuel didnt exactly push Werth out the door and to Washington, but the manager let his former protg know that it was OK to go elsewhere.

Ive been through a lot with Charlie. I went from kind of not one of Charlies guys to one of Charlies guys, Werth explained. You know, a lot had to happen between that. Shane and Michael Bourn got hurt the same day in 07 when I was on the DL. I think it was right after the trade deadline. They (activated) me on Aug. 1 off the DL and I played that whole August and hit 4-something that whole August. We ended up winning the division. Then, (Manuel) didnt play me against a lefty against Colorado in the Divisional Series. I still tell him about that. I ended up in a platoon at the start of the next year with Geoff Jenkins and having to really convince him to play me against righties. And I was his guy for 09 and 10.

Weve been through a lot. One of the things that he told me throughout the season last year was he mentioned Jim Thome. When Thome was (a free agent), he wanted to stay there (in Cleveland) and Charlie said if you stay Ill never speak to you again. Thats one of his life lessons. I learned a lot about life other than baseball from Charlie Manuel. There was a lot of good times there.

Werth also remembered how Manuel used to heckle another one of his former pupils, Manny Ramirez, during games. If Manuel rode Werth when he dug in on Tuesday night, he got the Manny treatment back. In the Nats 7-4 victory, Werths leadoff double in the fourth helped the Nats break open the game with a three-run frame. An inning later, he lined a solo shot to the foul pole in left.

He wrapped up the game with a two-out walk and a stolen base in the seventh for a 2-for-3 effort with a pair of runs, a homer, RBI and stolen base.

When asked if Charlie had any good zingers for him when Werth dug into the box, the ex-Phillie smiled mischievously and feigned ignorance. Sometimes it can be really tough to hear a the voice of a man with a booming Appalachian twang pierce through the outdoor stadium filled with a little more than 13,000 people.

Nope, he says he didnt hear anything and hes sticking to it.

But when a few of the writers down from Philly headed out to be replaced with the gang from DC, Werth was energized again.

Yeah, the Nats, he said. Lets talk about the Nats.

E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

Related: Werth, Nats take series opener from Phillies Buy Phillies gear

Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

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Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford singled in Matt Duffy with two outs in the 10th inning, and the surging San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 4-3 Wednesday for their 13th win in 14 games.

Duffy singled off Brad Hand (1-2) with one out, pinch-hitter Hunter Pence popped out, Duffy advanced on a wild pitch and Crawford hit a 1-2 offering over center fielder Jon Jay as Duffy scored standing up.

Crawford also singled and scored after some alert baserunning in the second inning. Duffy and Denard Span drove in runs for the NL West-leading Giants.

San Francisco completed a three-game sweep, extended its winning streak to five and improved to 9-0 against the Padres this season. The Giants' two walkoff wins in the series were against Hand (see full recap).

Arrieta moves to 9-0 in Cubs' win over Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Jake Arrieta remained unbeaten on the season despite allowing as many as four runs for the first time in nearly a year and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-8 on Wednesday.

Arrieta (9-0) joined the White Sox's Chris Sale as the only nine-game winners in the majors.

Arrieta allowed four runs in a regular-season game for the first time since June 16, 2015.

Arrieta became the first Cub to win his first nine decisions since Kenny Holtzman in 1967 and it is the best start to a season for the franchise since Jim McCormick went 16-0 in 1886.

Kris Bryant hit a three-run homer and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist each drove in two for the Cubs (see full recap).

Bradley extends hit streak to 29 in BoSox victory
BOSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his major league-best hitting streak to 29 games, Xander Bogaerts homered to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 10-3 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.

Travis Shaw had three RBIs and Boston moved to a season-best 12 games over .500. The Red Sox have scored eight or more runs 10 times in their last 14 home games.

Steven Wright (4-4) had another solid outing, giving up three runs, two earned. He has now given up three runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts.

Chad Bettis (4-3) held the Red Sox scoreless through three innings but was responsible for seven runs over the next two innings before getting pulled.

The Rockies have lost six of their last seven -- all on the road (see full recap).

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering three-run home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-huh, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”

Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

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Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

DETROIT — The Phillies have an off day Thursday.
 
It will come in handy for Maikel Franco.
 
The third baseman suffered what was termed a sprained right ankle while sliding into second base in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday. He hobbled off the field before the start of the bottom of the inning.
 
After the game, both Franco and manager Pete Mackanin stressed that the sprain was mild.
 
Franco received treatment after coming out of the game and he will again on the off day. Mackanin said he would exercise caution in determining Franco’s availability for Friday afternoon, but did not rule out playing Franco.
 
Franco was adamant. He’s playing.
 
“It’s a little bit sore, but it’s fine,” he said. “It already feels better. I’ll be ready for Friday. With the day off, I know I’ll be OK.”
 
If Franco can’t play, Mackanin would insert super-sub Andres Blanco into the lineup. He had two hits, including an RBI double, and scored two runs in Wednesday’s win over the Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco had a pair of singles and is 7 for 15 in his last four games.