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10/07/08 8:02 PM ET

Werth capitalizes on second chance

Let go by Dodgers, outfielder plays key role for '08 Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Jayson Werth, then of the Dodgers, wasn't going to be denied against Matt Herges, then of the Giants.

So on what he remembered as the 12th pitch of his bottom-of-the-ninth at-bat on Oct. 2, 2004, Werth sliced a single for the tying run. The one-out hit kept the bases loaded for Steve Finley, who crushed a walk-off grand slam, giving the Dodgers a 7-3 win and the National League West title.

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"That was good," Werth said. "We were down three runs going into the ninth. That's as far as it goes."

For most of the next two years, it seemed to be as far as Werth might be going, too. Entering 2005 as the Dodgers' starting left fielder, he was hit on the left wrist by an A.J. Burnett fastball in his second Spring Training at-bat.

Originally diagnosed as a small avulsion fracture of the wrist, Werth missed the rest of Spring Training and the first 44 games of the season before playing the rest of the year in varying degrees of pain.

He had surgery in November 2005, and believed that would finally fix his condition. The procedure required a specialized procedure, one for a torn ligament. Werth was never sure whether the tear was caused by the impact of the ball or from his pulling away from the pitch.

No matter, something about the wrist wasn't right, and Werth missed the 2006 season. While contemplating what else to do with his life, a neighbor suggested visiting a specialist at the Mayo Clinic.

"Sitting at home, I shut down my rehab myself in May, I had gone to five of their doctors, and we went nowhere," Werth said. "I sat at home in limbo. It was stressful and agonizing. I was just living life. I couldn't plan on anything, couldn't do anything until I got up there. For 2 1/2 months, I was fishing."

When that surgery proved successful -- the part of the story had been well-documented -- Werth then had to re-establish himself as an everyday player. Concerned about his wrist, the Dodgers non-tendered him after the 2006 season. The Phillies signed him, in large part because general manager Pat Gillick had a soft spot for the player he drafted in 1997 as general manager of the Orioles.

Contributing marginally in 2007, Werth met with Phils manager Charlie Manuel and asked for an opportunity. The first meeting happened in '07, and was met with a polite nod.

"He still really didn't know who I was as a player," Werth said. "I even brought in my highlight tape from '04. I just set it on his desk. I don't know if he ever watched it."

Injuries to Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn in late July forced the Phillies to summon Werth from a rehab assignment, where he was working hard to return from a strained muscle.

He got hot in August and part of September, helping the Phillies to a NL East title. Not convinced in his everyday potential, the Phillies signed Geoff Jenkins as a free agent.

Halfway through 2008, Werth had the conversation again with Manuel.

"He was receptive and he agreed with me," Werth said. "I couldn't be any happier with my situation now. I've gotten a second chance."

With that second chance, Werth smashed a career-high 24 home runs, and drove in 67 runs. Four years after helping the Dodgers win an NL West title, he's with the Phillies, trying to end Los Angeles' season in the NL Championship Series.

Werth contends that there are no hard feelings, and most of the Dodgers he knew are gone, except for Brad Penny, so this is just a series involving two teams trying to get to the World Series.

But he smiled at the irony.

"This is the good stuff, to go from an unknown situation to being part of a team that comes back and wins the East," Werth said. "Ever since I can remember, I've always had a bat or glove in my hand and always wanted to play baseball. When you get something like that taken away and get a second chance, who wouldn't want to do that. But to actually do it, that's what dreams are made of."

Maybe the best way to describe Werth now is by what he said on Oct. 2, 2004, of his at-bat against Herges.

"I got mad and I said to myself, 'You can't fail,'" he said. 'You can't give up.'"

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.