Injured Nationals nearing returns

Injured Nationals nearing returns

Injured Nationals nearing returns
WASHINGTON -- As the Nationals continue to tear through the National League, the thought of additional reinforcements coming after the All-Star break grows more promising by the day.

Jayson Werth is expected to return in early August after fracturing his left wrist on May 6. Manager Davey Johnson said Werth looked good while shagging fly balls during batting practice before Wednesday's game against the Giants, though the 33-year-old right fielder isn't ready to begin swinging the bat again.

"He said it still bothers him to extend in a hitting motion, so he's not going to do anything with the bat," Johnson said. "I would think he's not going to be doing too much swinging or anything like that until after the [All-Star] break."

In 27 games before his injury, Werth was batting .276 with an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .810. Since then, the Nationals' outfield has rounded into unexpectedly proficient shape with the addition of Bryce Harper, the emergence of Steve Lombardozzi and Michael Morse's return from injury in early June.

The Nats are also awaiting the return of their top hitter off the bench, Chad Tracy, and last year's closer, Drew Storen. After tearing a muscle in his right groin on May 26, Tracy began a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac on Wednesday night, going 0-for-3 with a walk and one run scored. In his 49 at-bats before the injury, Tracy was hitting .265 with three homers and 12 RBIs.

Though Tracy will slide back into his primary role as a pinch-hitter, Johnson wants him to rehab fully before returning after the All-Star break.

"With that kind of injury, I'd like him to get used to playing nine innings because I do like to keep him fresh by playing nine innings," Johnson said. "He needs the repetition of the at-bats to help his timing."

Storen, meanwhile, will start for Potomac on Thursday night and pitch one inning. After April 11 surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow, Storen has missed the entire season while seeing his closest friend on the team, fellow reliever Tyler Clippard, seize hold of the closer job. Johnson has said that even when Storen returns, Clippard will be the closer for the foreseeable future.

"[Storen will] start out for me seeing how he's throwing in a few appearances," Johnson said. "Obviously, if I like the way he's throwing and I feel like he's able to bounce back, I wouldn't have any qualms about sliding him in occasionally to take a little heat off of Clippard."