Bill Ladson

Werth takes first BP, but return date uncertain

Injured Span also making progress, eyes May comeback

Werth takes first BP, but return date uncertain

VIERA, Fla. -- Opening Day is 10 days away and Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth still doesn't know if he will be on the 25-man roster to start the season. He has yet to play in a Major League Spring Training game because of his surgically-repaired right shoulder.

The good news is, after hitting off a batting tee Sunday morning at Space Coast Stadium, Werth took batting practice in the cage for the first time. His swing was strong and he was watched closely by Minor League hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich, who told Werth he was a little soft when it came to making contact during the early portion of batting practice. Toward the end of practice, Werth was making solid contact.

Werth said there is a mental side and a physical side to the progression.

"The swing is there, all the range of motion," Werth said "My natural swing path is good. I still have a little ways to go. That was the first day I took BP. I used my bat... I feel like I am progressing.

"The good news is, I'm not taking steps backwards. But I think everybody wants to know, am I going to be ready by Opening Day? It's really not my call to make. I really don't know if I am or not. I know we are running out of time... When I'm ready, I'll play. When I get enough at-bats and it's time to help my team, I'm sure they will call me up."

Werth then played a few innings on defense in a Minor League game.

Center fielder Denard Span, who will start the season on the disabled list because of a surgically-repaired abdominal muscle, played catch on the outfield grass at Space Coast Stadium. He threw as far as 150 feet and was throwing the ball hard.

Is there a possibility Span could be back sooner than expected? Span said not long ago he is hoping to be back sometime in May.

Outlook: Span, OF, WSH

"There are some things I have to cross off my checklist as far as letting myself know when I'll be ready. I feel really good. God is good," Span said.

Besides throwing, Span has been running sprints for the last three days. On Saturday, he performed zig-zag sprinting and has hit off the batting tee the last two days.

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman was not in the lineup against the Mets on Saturday because of a sore back. He hurt the back while making a diving stop in the first inning off the bat of Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk. Zimmerman said he is feeling better and plans to take a couple of days off.

"I knew it was kind of precautionary," Zimmerman said. "I still took my at-bat. Just no reason to grind out two or three more at-bats. It was third day I was playing in a row. I'm just kind of being on the safe side."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.