Clean Bill Of Health Propels Nats' Wort To Breakout

WASHINGTON—Though righthander Rob Wort expected to have a bounceback season, health permitting, his success at high Class A Potomac took even him by surprise.

The 23-year-old reliever from St. Charles, Mo., had to alter his travel plans when he was a late addition to the Carolina League all-star roster. He closed out his team's 9-1 victory against the California League all-stars in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Wort faced two batters, allowing a hit and then striking out Reds prospect Billy Hamilton to end the game. His parents, brother and girlfriend were there to see him.

"I had a flight home to see my family, but I was glad to cancel it," Wort said. "They came anyway, and it worked out great."

Farm director Doug Harris said at midseason that Wort has made as big a leap forward as anyone in the organization. He had struck out 65 in 39 innings while allowing 32 hits, 14 walks and a 2.52 ERA.

Wort played mostly center field in high school, but when he reached Jefferson (Mo.) JC, a high ankle sprain cut into his speed and limited him to a reserve role. It ultimately moved him to the mound, where he notched 16 saves in two years as the Vikings' closer.

After turning down a scholarship from Missouri State and signing for $20,000 in 2009, the 30th-rounder climbed to Potomac for eight appearances at the end of 2010. Back with the P-Nats last year, Wort notched a 4.42 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 37 innings, saying, "My arm would hurt after I pitched, even if I was just standing and it was hanging at my side."

The tendinitis in his elbow has cleared this season, and Wort's high-end velocity has ticked up from 93 to 95 mph. He throws a changeup to lefthanded hitters and has thrived with what he calls his "hybrid cutter."

"I put half my hand on the ball and throw the crap out of it, and it breaks a lot," said Wort, who also has been throwing more strikes with the help of a higher leg kick encouraged by pitching coach Chris Michalak.


• Catcher Sandy Leon went 10-for-26 (.385) in his first eight games back at Double-A Harrisburg. He missed more than six weeks with a high ankle sprain.

• A fire damaged the administrative offices of Potomac's Pfitzner Stadium. One employee was injured and the cause was still under investigation, according to the News & Messenger of Prince William County, Va.