Paid $127M to change unis, Jayson Werth is hoping to bring a culture of winning to the Nationals' clubhouse. Beerleaguer sat down with Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider to get the latest from Washington.
Beerleaguer: What do you think of Jayson Werth so far, and what kind of influence has he had on the Nationals?
Nats Insider: The numbers may not look like much yet, but Werth has had a significant impact on the Nationals already. He's getting on base at a healthy clip, and his ability to work the count has rubbed off on several teammates. More importantly, he quickly established himself as a clubhouse leader, someone who both has teammates over to his place for dinner while also getting in their faces when they aren't doing something right. He's a little bit of a different cat, but so far he's fit in really well.
Beerleaguer: Is there anything my readers should know about the Nationals, based on spring training and the first nine games of the season?
Nats Insider: The pitching staff has been much better than I think most people thought it would be, especially with Stephen Strasburg rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. They don't have a real ace, but they've got a couple proven veterans in Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis, a reliable lefty in John Lannan and an emerging frontline starter in Jordan Zimmermann. All had strong springs and have carried it over into the regular season. The real strength of the staff, though, is the back end of the bullpen. Sean Burnett, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard have been fantastic so far and give the Nats reason to believe they can win any game as long as it's close late. Jim Riggleman has had to overuse all three, and that could be a problem long-term. But for now, they're invaluable to this team.
Beerleaguer: Where do you see the Nationals finishing the season?
Nats Insider: They've made some significant progress, but they're not ready to win quite yet. They would need everything to fall into place to finish .500, and that's just not reasonable to expect. But they do have the talent to win between 75-79 games, provided they don't suffer any major injuries (Ryan Zimmerman going on the DL with a strained abdominal muscle isn't a positive development).
Beerleaguer: What's the ETA for young talent to begin making an impact?
Nats Insider: The two biggest young studs who will help this team long-term won't be around until September at the earliest, maybe not until 2012. Strasburg is on pace to return from Tommy John surgery in September, but the Nats won't force him back this year if he's not ready. Bryce Harper, meanwhile, is starting his minor-league career at low-Class A Hagerstown. He should move quickly through the system, but it would take something really phenomenal for him to leap through four levels of the minors and debut in the majors this September at age 18. We should see him sometime in 2012.
Mark Zuckerman has covered the Nationals since the franchise arrived in D.C., first for The Washington Times and now for CSNPhilly.com's sister site, CSNWashington.com. Follow his blog, Nats Insider, all season.