The Nationals officially placed outfielder Rick Ankiel on their 40-man roster this afternoon, shortly after Manager Davey Johnson referred to him “my No. 1 option” in center field. But Ankiel’s tight left quadriceps could threaten his availability for opening day.
Ankiel had seemingly recovered from the tightness in his leg by Tuesday, but he left the Nationals’ game in Jupiter after three innings and has not played since. Ankiel is not in tonight’s lineup, and Johnson said Ankiel might sit again tomorrow.
“I’m a little concerned about Ank,” Johnson said. “I like his approach. It’s much better than I saw last year. His approach is so much better this spring than any time last year. So I don’t want any setbacks there. I’m not concerned about him having x-amount of at-bats.”
Ankiel has been taking soft toss in lieu of full batting practice. Johnson said Ankiel wouldn’t necessarily have to play in one of the Nationals’ final four spring training games to play opening day, but “I’ve still got a couple days to look at him,” Johnson said.
“We feel really good where he’s at with the bat right now,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “I see his hands freed up with his swing. He’s been a lot more aggressive covering the whole plate.”
With Ankiel out tonight, Jayson Werth is in center field, with Xavier Nady in right and Mark DeRosa in left. Roger Bernadina is returning tonight from his father’s funeral in his native Curacao. If he were available, Johnson said, Bernadina would have played center tonight.
With Ankiel’s addition, the Nationals now have 39 players on their 40-man roster. They will gain two more spots when they place Chris Marrero and Cole Kimball on the 60-day disabled list, and they will add two when they presumably place non-roster invitees Nady and Brett Carroll on the roster.
Here’s tonight’s full Nationals’ lineup against the Marlins and starter Josh Johnson.
1. Ian Desmond, SS
2. Danny Espinosa, 2B
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Jayson Werth, RF
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B
6. Mark DeRosa, LF
7. Xavier Nady, RF
8. Wilson Ramos, C
9. Ross Detwiler, SP
This will be Detwiler’s first start of the spring. The Nationals will pitch both Stephen Strasburg and John Lannan tomorrow to line them up for their first starts of the regular season on April 5 and April 10, respectively.