WASHINGTON -- General manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson both expected to carry their eight-man bullpen the rest of the season. But that plan changed Thursday afternoon when the Nationals placed Henry Rodriguez on the 15-day disabled list, clearing room for Jayson Werth's activation.
Johnson said Rodriguez has been dealing with a lower back injury since Washington's four-game weekend series in Milwaukee, and he's been receiving treatment on it since the club returned home. Rodriguez, 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA in 35 appearances, has showed no signs of any injury. He most recently threw 38 pitches in 1 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Phillies.
"Henry's had some problems with his lower back," Johnson said. "I don't know if he exacerbated it from me throwing him 40 pitches and trying to get two innings out of him the other night, I don't know. But he has been getting some work on it.
"He's been getting treatment prior to that on his lower back. It seems like we get them in rashes around here. ... I think it was going around in Milwaukee. It seemed like everyone had a little something."
With Rodriguez down, the Nats' bullpen is back to seven players and their bench is a little deeper. Johnson said he feels comfortable with all seven of his relievers in any role, even setting up Tyler Clippard, but this could lead to more high-leverage opportunities for Drew Storen, who has been easing his way back in from right elbow surgery.
"A guy that closed 43 games last year, I have a lot of confidence in him late. He's ready for just about anything I want him to do," Johnson said. "I can kind of create matchups and stuff like that. That's the beauty of it: They're all used to going a lot."
Werth activated from DL, drives in run in return
WASHINGTON -- Jayson Werth didn't feel anything special when he got back on the field at Nationals Park on Thursday night, his first Major League game since May 6.
If anything, Werth said, that surreal moment came when he had to play for Class A Potomac during his Minor League rehab assignment. Thursday felt like business as usual, as he went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a walk.
"Like I never missed a step. It was good," Werth said. "Those Minor League fields, they're kind of spongy, so it was good to get back on a hard surface.
"I felt like I was ready. I didn't really see what the point was to continue to play games in the Minor Leagues. I wasn't getting a whole lot out of those. If we were going to wait for me to get into 100 percent game shape ... if I wanted to wait up to 20 [days], I could have, but I felt good at the plate and felt like I could help the team. I felt ready."
The impact of having Werth back in the lineup and in center field wasn't lost on his teammates or Nationals manager Davey Johnson, not after Werth missed 75 games with a broken left wrist. Johnson said Werth, who didn't play full back-to-back games during his rehab assignment, would be a "day-by-day" evaluation, but didn't sound concerned about his durability.
"He's pretty focused on coming back and helping the ballclub. That was a very determined Jayson Werth," Johnson said. "He's always determined, but he was very focused."
"It's great. He's a leader for us," added left-hander Ross Detwiler, Thursday's winning pitcher. "He's a leader out there, a great outfielder. You know what he does with the bat."
The Nationals' success made it easier for Werth to sit back and watch from the dugout, but with him back and Ian Desmond due back in three or four weeks, Washington is starting to round up its full roster -- something that didn't slip by Johnson or Werth.
"We're getting there," Johnson said. "This is the closest we've been in a long time."
"We've done a great job, guys stepping in all season," added Werth. "That's what great teams do. This team's got a lot of depth. Playing the games in the Minor Leagues, you see the type of talent we have down there and the type of guys that are in the system, just not at the Major League level. We're pretty stacked. I like our chances for years to come."
Johnson worried about Moore getting enough ABs
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson admitted he wanted to send down Tyler Moore when Jayson Werth came back on Thursday. Not because of the way Moore has played -- he's hitting .293 with a .877 OPS and 16 RBIs -- but because there won't be enough opportunities for the rookie slugger.
With Werth back in center field and opportunities to start in the outfield even harder to come by, Johnson will have to get creative with how he uses Moore. That will probably mean plenty of pinch-hitting, and maybe the occasional start to spell Bryce Harper in the outfield or Adam LaRoche at first base against left-handed pitching.
"He's such a great young talent. He'll be in a situation where I really don't have the playing time for him," Johnson said. "With Jayson out, he was going to get left-handers, and I'd leave him in there to face right-handers, and I felt like he could probably get his 200 at-bats, and that wouldn't set [his development] back."
Had the Nationals stuck with their eight-man bullpen rather than putting Henry Rodriguez on the disabled list, Moore could have gone back to Triple-A Syracuse to play every day and return when the rosters are expanded in September. Instead, Johnson suggested that Moore should consider playing winter ball somewhere to get more at-bats and continue his development.
"I was torn between letting him go play and getting the at-bats he needs, and Henry getting 100 percent. There was a lot of talking," Johnson said. "He's just too young and too good a talent."