PHILADELPHIA – Jayson Werth turned jeers into cheers with a simple tip of his helmet.
Back in Philadelphia for the first time since leaving for Washington, Werth was mostly booed when he came to the plate in the first inning Tuesday night, though there was some applause mixed in.
Werth, standing outside the batter's box, then took off his helmet and tipped it to the fans. That won 'em over. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. Werth drew a walk from Cole Hamels and stole second base.
The Nationals lost 4-1, but it was a night Werth won't soon forget.
"The fans welcomed me back for the most part," Werth said. "I was very grateful. I'll remember it for the rest of my life. It meant a lot to me."
When Werth ran out to right field in the bottom of the first, the fans behind him cheered. He took off his cap and again acknowledged the crowd, drawing a roar of approval.
"There's a lot of familiar faces out there," he said. "I felt pretty comfortable. It's a great atmosphere, a packed park, great fans. There aren't many places like this."
Some fans had resentment. One large banned in right field read: "Werth-less you bad-mouthed the Phillies. Now we're bad-mouthing you. Boo!"
Werth signed a $126 million, seven-year deal with the Nationals last winter. He spent four seasons in Philadelphia and developed into an All-Star outfielder after nearly giving up on baseball because of a wrist injury.
Werth was booed loudly by a large contingent of Phillies fans who made the trip to Washington when the teams met early in the season. He was a popular player during his time in Philadelphia, and spoke fondly of the fans.
"It's really something special here," he said. "I look forward to playing here tonight and for the rest of my career for better or worse. There's no place like it."
Werth is off to a slow start with the Nationals. He's batting just .226 with four homers and seven RBIs. Werth hit .268 with 36 homers and 99 RBIs in 2009 and followed that up with a .296 average, 27 homers and 85 RBIs last year.
"I see the same guy," Nats manager Jim Riggleman said. "It's a pleasure to manage him. I don't see anything in his actions that implicates he's under pressure."
Werth, a first-round pick by Baltimore in 1997, began his career with Toronto in 2002. He played a total of 41 games with the Blue Jays in two seasons and then spent two years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. At one point, his career was in jeopardy because of a unique wrist injury that forced him to miss the 2006 season.
He came back, signed a one-year deal with the Phillies and played well in a part-time role in 2007. Werth platooned with Geoff Jenkins for most of '08 until taking over every day down the stretch and helping the Phillies win their first championship since 1980.
Werth is tied for ninth on the all-time list for postseason homers with 13. He credited Phillies manager Charlie Manuel for helping him become a successful hitter.
"Charlie played a big role in my career," he said. "When I got to Philly, I don't think I was in Charlie's better graces. But as time went on I became one of Charlie's guys. He's like a father figure to me. I respect him wholeheartedly. I'll always remember what he did for me and my career. He's the best. I love Charlie Manuel."