Ryan Zimmerman returns to Nats

PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Nationals placed outfielder Jayson Werth on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, a day after Werth underwent surgery to repair his broken left wrist. Werth is expected to be out at least 12 weeks, a huge blow to a team currently atop the NL East.

"He's been playing great," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's a team leader, swinging the bat good, doing everything good. We're going to miss him."

Werth was hitting .276 with five doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs in 27 games with Washington before injuring the wrist while trying to make a sliding catch against Philadelphia on Sunday night.

The Nationals did get some good news on Tuesday, activating third baseman Ryan Zimmerman from the DL. Zimmerman hasn't played since April 20 due to right shoulder inflammation.

Werth's injury means rookie outfielder Bryce Harper will remain with the team. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft will start in Werth's spot in right field on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Harper is hitting .308 with five doubles in eight games since making his major league debut on April 28.

The Nationals have survived despite a host of players making their way to the disabled list in the season's first month. Werth joins relievers Brad Lidge, Drew Storen and Chien-Ming Wang, first baseman Michael Morse and third baseman Mark DeRosa on the DL.

"In all the years I've managed," Johnson said, "I've never seen so many accidents or what have you to key players."

Johnson isn't sure how the outfield will look in Werth's absence. Roger Bernadina started in left field on Tuesday, though it's possible Xavier Nady will also see more time.

"They're both quality players," Johnson said. "Nady is getting close. So is Bernie, so we'll see."

Johnson has no plans to put infielder Stephen Lombardozzi in the outfield mix. Lombardozzi has made two appearances in the outfield as a substitute.

"I have a math degree and you start putting three or four variables in it, it's hard to solve the equation," Johnson said. "Right now, with those two players, I'm looking for them to stand up."