Werth, Phillies practice for Series

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - October 23, 2009


It's easy to overlook Werth in Philadelphia's potent lineup. Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are the former MVPs. Chase Utley is the perennial All-Star. Shane Victorino gets plenty of attention for his energy.

But Werth fits right in with all the big boppers on the Phillies. Given the chance to play every day, the right fielder had a breakout year. He's carried his success into the postseason, helping the defending champions reach the World Series for the second straight year.

Werth batted .268 with 36 homers, 99 RBIs and 20 steals, earning a trip to the All-Star game in his first full season as a regular. He's hitting .281 with five homers and 10 RBIs in nine playoff games.


"Ever since he came to Philly, he's been getting better," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "The numbers that you see, to me he's more capable. I think he can even do better, because I think he's getting more consistent in his at-bats and his pitch selection."

Werth's emergence has made it difficult for opponents to pitch around Howard, who was MVP of the NL championship series against Los Angeles.

With Werth batting in the No. 5 spot, Howard has received just one intentional walk in the postseason. Pitching to either slugger has been a mistake.

"I like hitting behind Howie, even though it seems like there's no one on base hitting fifth," Werth said, referring to Howard's RBI ability. "But it's exciting. I get to drive in a lot of runs and be a big part of the lineup right in the middle of it. It's a lot of fun, especially with this team."

Werth is one of the most patient hitters in baseball. He had 91 walks in the regular season and led the majors in averaging 4.5 pitches per plate appearance.


Werth, 6-foot-5 and 222 pounds, has long arms and long legs, which helps his plate coverage. He can hit for power to the opposite field and had 21 homers to center or right.

"As long as he stays in what I call a strong, balanced hitting position, this guy, he is legit, man," Manuel said. "He's got a lot of power, and he hits the ball all over the field. He's got pull power, and he can hit the ball to right field, center field, and he's developed into a very tremendous right fielder. He's been a big addition to our team, and he plays a big part in our success."

Werth was one of former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick's best finds. After sitting out the entire 2006 season with a wrist injury, Werth signed a one-year deal for $850,000.

He played well in a part-time role in '07 and platooned with Geoff Jenkins for most of '08 until taking over every day down the stretch. Werth finished last year with a .273 average, 24 homers, 67 RBIs and 20 steals. He boosted his average to .309 in the postseason and signed a $10 million, two-year contract in January.

Before he came to the Phillies, Werth's career was in jeopardy because of a unique wrist injury. He spent a few months during the summer of '06 wondering if he'd ever play again.

"There was a time where I didn't know where I was at as far as my injury and what was going to happen," Werth said. "I was sitting at home in Illinois, fishing off my boat, not having any idea what was going to happen. Baseball was done unless something got taken care of."

Werth originally sustained the injury while playing for the Dodgers in 2005. He broke his left wrist in spring training when he got hit by a pitch from A.J. Burnett. Werth played 102 games despite the injury, but his numbers dropped significantly. The wrist problems lingered in '06 and he couldn't play. Werth finally went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in August, and Dr. Richard Berger diagnosed the injury as a split tear of the UT ligament in his wrist.

"I was really hoping that the guys at Mayo Clinic knew what they were doing, and they did," Werth said. "They diagnosed it and they did the surgery, and really it was not that big a deal, although it was very rare. I saw Dr. Berger was the only doctor at the time diagnosing and repairing my injury."

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