The Washington Post

The Nationals’ left field competition shifts to center

The emergence of Michael Morse as the Nationals’ left fielder has solidified one outfield spot and thrown another into flux. Morse has decisively pulled away from Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel, but Nyjer Morgan has not similarly separated himself in center field.

And so for the rest of spring, the Nationals will shift their focus in regard to Ankiel and Bernadina. Rather than competing in left, they’re now primarily pushing Morgan in center.

“We come into the spring with Nyjer as our center fielder, and that’s kind of what we’re looking at,” Riggleman said. “If Ankiel or Bernadina just emerges - we were thinking about them in left. But now, the way Mike is going, instead of a couple people competing in left, it’s maybe more competing in center.”

To start spring, Morgan (5 for 26, three walks) and Ankiel (4 for 26, one walk) have scuffled while Bernadina (7 for 27, two walks) started fast before a minor slump. Morgan has the most major league experience in center field and has previously played it a high level. Ankiel is the best power threat, as he’s shown with three home runs this spring. And Bernadina provides the most upside with his combination of speed and strength.

“It’s interesting,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “The three people who we would consider playing out there kind of bring a different skill set.”

At the start of spring, right fielder Jayson Werth called the Nationals outfield “an interesting dynamic” with “two spots that are unaccounted for and maybe six or seven guys that could fill that role. It’s going to be interesting to see how it shakes out.” Turns out, he was right.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.


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