Rick Ankiel is back in the starting lineup today, playing center field, largely because Manager Jim Riggleman is adhering to a baseball axiom: you can’t lose your starting position to injury.
“I’m not,” Riggleman said, “going to abandon Rick Ankiel at this point.”
When Rick Ankiel dove for a ball in center field May 2, he sprained his wrist and missed the next three weeks, during which time Roger Bernadina came up from Class AAA Syracuse and assumed the center field and leadoff role, hitting .247/.307/.333 while alternatively making great catches and questionable plays in center.
The Nationals, though, do not want Bernadina sitting on the bench and not developing. Meanwhile, Laynce Nix has been perhaps the Nationals’ most consistent hitter – he’s hitting cleanup today. All three are left-handed, too, so there’s not really a platoon opportunity.
So, the solution: Riggleman will play Ankiel, Bernadina and Nix in a loose rotation in center field and left field.
“The three of them are going to man those two positions,” Riggleman said. “Hopefully, none of them get too much rust on them and they can all display their skills out there. I’ve got two positions for three players. You’ve got to kind of mix and match there a little bit.”
Ian Desmond is also out of the lineup today. While he’s fighting a few sore spots, especially in his left hip, it’s mainly a regular day off, like Danny Espinosa received yesterday before he entered the game as a sub in the sixth inning.
“Desi, he’s a tough guy. He wants to be in there,” Riggleman said. “He and Espinosa have played a lot of baseball to this point. I want them both to end up with 500-plus at-bats. That doesn’t mean you play 162 games. But Desi plays through aches and pains. We’re hoping that this day will help them calm down even more.”