Rick Ankiel welcomed back to Nats on minor league deal

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Amanda Comack of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have re-signed outfielder Rick Ankiel to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Ankiel, 32, batted just .239/.296/.363 with nine home runs and 37 RBI in 415 plate appearances last season for Washington. He has one of the best outfield arms in baseball, but the former left-handed starter has struggled offensively since posting 25 homers and an .843 OPS with the Cardinals in 2008.

Ankiel will compete for center field duties in camp this spring with Roger Bernadina and Mike Cameron. The Nationals have been trying to find a long-term fix in center for the past couple of years, but they’ll continue to go with patchwork options for now.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.