Bill Ladson

Werth: Nats benefiting from relaxed Harper

Rehabbing outfielder focused on keeping distractions from derailing ultimate goal

Werth: Nats benefiting from relaxed Harper

WASHINGTON -- Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper has been carrying the Nationals for more than a month with his big bat, and teammate Jayson Werth called Harper's fast start "awesome."

Harper clubbed his 16th home run, and 11th in 14 games, during Friday's 2-1 win over the Phillies.

Werth believes Harper is off to a great start because he is relaxed around his teammates.

"That comes with being one of the guys," said Werth, who is on the 15-day disabled list nursing a bruised left wrist after being hit by a pitch. "He has been here long enough. He is comfortable in his own skin. He understands who he is. He's finally been in a place long enough to be OK with being himself. That's paying off."

Werth's hit-by-pitch

Werth did not want to speculate as to what Harper's numbers would be by the end of the year. Harper's great start reminded Werth of the start Adrian Beltre had in 2004, when he was with the Dodgers. Beltre, who was Werth's teammate that year, ended up having the best year of his career, hitting .334 with 48 home runs and 121 RBIs.

"I've kind of seen that performance be like this at the top. I've seen it stay up there," Werth said. "[Beltre] was able to not go in a prolonged slump. We'll see how [Harper's] season goes. There are pitfalls for everybody. But he is riding the waves right now."

The most important thing for Werth is to win a World Series this year. Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann and Denard Span are free agents after the season, and they may not return to the team in 2016.

"I don't have the keys to Cooperstown. If I did, I wouldn't give it to anybody until the season was over," Werth said. "[Harper] is playing great. I want him to keep going. ... Once you start looking ahead, you forget about the task at hand. I'm not going to make a big deal about it. When you start making a big deal about something, then it goes away. I want him to keep going. I want him to stay in games. I want him to stay focused. We have a long season. We have a big season.

"This is it for this group. We are not going to get another chance with having Ian, Jordan, Doug and Denard. We are not going to get another chance with this group. I want to make the most of it. I don't want to let any outside stuff get in the way. I want to live in the moment."

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