Associated Press photo
Jayson Werth tracks down a fly ball during a workout earlier this week.
Werth will start in center field, the first indication of the year that the veteran could see significant time there during the regular season, especially once top prospect Bryce Harper arrives.
Harper is not in manager Davey Johnson's pre-announced lineup for tomorrow's game (he'll have made back-to-back starts in right field against Georgetown yesterday and the Astros today). But rather than put Werth in his regular right field spot, Johnson will have him start in center, with non-roster invitee Brett Carroll in right.
Johnson wasn't interested this morning in revealing much about his plan for Werth this spring.
"He hasn't moved to center yet," the manager said. "You're getting a little ahead of yourself."
Werth did start 17 games in center field last season and looked quite adept at tracking down fly balls from that position. His ability to man that position on a regular basis this year may depend in large part on his health.
Werth was not able to fully participate in two workouts earlier this week due to back spasms, but he's since been given a green light by the Nationals' training staff to return to full action.
"I think if you asked him, he'd say he can do whatever, a full season in center or in right," Johnson said. "I think he feels, just from last year, that ... in center he has to be 100 percent to get the jumps and get the balls that are more demanding than right. So he would probably need a little more rest if he was in center."
Whether Harper makes the Opening Day roster or not, Werth figures to see at least some action in center field early in the season. As things currently stand, the Nationals are likely to have Werth in right and Rick Ankiel in center when facing a right-handed opposing starter. When facing a lefty, Werth could slide to center with veteran Mark DeRosa in right.
Werth won't be the only Nationals regular making his spring debut tomorrow. Ryan Zimmerman (third base), Michael Morse (designated hitter) and Wilson Ramos (catcher) are all scheduled to be in the lineup.
The lone exception is Adam LaRoche, who will be held out for precautionary reasons as he deals with a mild ankle sprain and his shoulder surgery from last season. DeRosa is scheduled to start at first base in LaRoche's place.