Werth all smiles upon reunion with ex-mates

Werth all smiles upon reunion with ex-mates

Werth all smiles upon reunion with ex-mates
WASHINGTON -- Jayson Werth smiled and hugged his former Phillies teammates Tuesday afternoon at Nationals Park.

He chatted with Raul Ibanez. He joked with Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz.

But after Werth, who signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals in December, exchanged pleasantries in the afternoon, he beat up his former team that night. He went 2-for-3 with a double, home run, RBI, walk, stolen base and two runs scored in a 7-4 victory over the Phillies.

He could not have asked for a better effort, especially with Phillies fans booing him in his own home ballpark.

"Obviously, any time you hit a home run you are going to have some satisfaction," Werth said. "Was it extra special against those guys? Probably a little bit. I was trying to perform well for Charlie [Manuel]. He hasn't seen me play in a while."

The boos might have been the strangest part of the night. Werth caught a pop fly in the top of the first inning and was booed. He was booed when he stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the first.

He pretty much was booed whenever he touched the ball or stepped to the plate.

"I was kind of waiting for it," Werth said. "Once I got it, it was kind of funny."

But Werth said he felt no extra juice facing his former team for the first time.

"Not really," he said. "Once the game started, it was business as usual. It was fun to watch them play on the other side of the diamond. It's good to see those guys. Obviously I've been through a lot with them. I wish them nothing but the best. I kind of closed that chapter in my life, as you say. We are moving on."

But before the game Werth talked about his time in Philadelphia, and his relationship with Manuel. Werth helped the Phillies win one World Series, two National League championships and four National League East crowns in four seasons.

"I've been through a lot with Charlie," said Werth, who hit third for the Nationals in the series opener. "I went from kind of not one of Charlie's guys to one of Charlie's guys. You know, a lot had to happen between that."

Werth signed with the Phillies as a free agent in December of 2006. He played sparingly in 2007 until Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn injured themselves in the same game at Wrigley Field on July 30. Werth got into the starting lineup Aug. 2, went 3-for-6 and hit .414 the rest of the month. He opened some eyes, and late in 2008 wrestled the everyday right fielder job from Geoff Jenkins. Werth helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series.

He became a National League All-Star in 2009 and ultimately signed the life-changing contract with the Nationals.

"One of the things that [Charlie Manuel] told me throughout the season last year was -- you mentioned Jim Thome," he said. "When Thome was [a free agent], he wanted to stay there [in Cleveland] and play there, and Charlie said, 'If you give up the big deal and stay here I'll never speak to you again.' That was one of his life lessons for me. There were a few of those. I learned a lot about life, love and baseball from Charlie Manuel. There were a lot of good times there."

Manuel said he planned to get on Werth's case this week. Werth said he expected it.

"When we played against Manny Ramirez, Charlie was always yelling at Manny," Werth said. "I'll take that as a compliment."

But will it be different facing his former team? Before Phillies right-hander Roy Oswalt pitched against the Houston Astros on the first weekend of the season, he said he probably would not feel much. But afterward he said it definitely felt strange.

Werth said before the game that he wasn't sure how he would feel once he finally got on the field.

"The last time I saw these guys was after that last game we played last year, so I haven't seen some of them since then," he said. "You know, there's still a lot of feelings there. We really accomplished a lot together. I went to war with those guys, most of them, for four straight years. You create some everlasting bonds, I think you could call it."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said Werth booed him in a text message after the Phillies signed Cliff Lee. Some fans have taken that to mean Werth is upset with the organization because they chose Lee over him.

Werth said that's not the case.

"I think that was more going back to when they traded Cliff before the 2010 season," Werth said. "That was more to do with that. If we would have had Cliff last year it would have made things a lot different. Baseball is a business. I understand all that. I think whatever was interpreted and said, the meaning was, 'Hey, we could have had Cliff all year.'"

Now Werth gets to face him Thursday in the series finale.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.