ATLANTA — Beset with nagging ailments to both his right shoulder and ankle, Jayson Werth was held out of the Nationals’ lineup for Friday night’s series opener against the Braves, though the club is hopeful neither injury is serious.
“He wants to play, but I don’t know how good he’d be today,” manager Matt Williams said. “He’s pretty banged up, so we’re going to give him a day.”
Williams said neither injury is significant enough to warrant medical tests — “he’s just sore” — but the wear and tear of late summer may have caught up with the veteran right fielder.
Werth had started 30 of the Nationals’ last 32 games and 107 of the club’s 113 games overall this season. Over the last week, though, he noted discomfort in both his right shoulder and ankle.
Werth aggravated the ankle while running out a groundball Tuesday night against the Mets, though he played the entire game. He did depart Wednesday night’s game in the seventh inning, with the Nationals leading 6-0, this time because of the shoulder, which had bothered him several days. Werth did return to play all 13 innings Thursday afternoon.
Though he tried to convince Williams he could play Friday, the manager sensed a night off was in order.
“You look at him and try to read what his eyes are telling you, as opposed to what his mouth is telling you,” Williams said. “But the fact that Jayson was sitting in the hot tub with an ice pack on his shoulder told me a lot. He’d probably be mad at me for saying that, but it tells you a lot. He’s banged up. He’s hurting today, so we need to give him a day off.”
With Werth sidelined, rookie Steven Souza Jr. is in right field for only his second career big-league start. Anthony Rendon, meanwhile, takes over Werth’s No. 3 spot in the lineup, with Asdrubal Cabrera bumped up to No. 2, in part because of his past experience against Braves starter Ervin Santana.
“Asdrubal has seen him; he’s got 34 at-bats against him,” Williams said. “He knows the pitcher. He’s comfortable in that spot. We move Anthony down to 3 and he’s comfortable there, too. With Jayson out, we’ve got to make those adjustments, but it fits with those two guys, given their comfort level in both those spots.”