Rick Ankiel is ready to return from his quadriceps injury and manager Davey Johnson said today that he’ll come off the disabled list as the Nationals’ starting center fielder.
Roger Bernadina has started six of the Nationals’ seven games in center field, with Jayson Werth moving over from right field to take the other start.
Bernadina has hit just .238 with a .657 OPS in 260 career games, so it’s easy to see why Johnson and the Nationals are quick to replace him, although it’s also worth noting that Ankiel hit a nearly identical .239 with a .659 OPS in 122 games for Washington last season.
Michael Morse has been shut down for at least the next six weeks following a setback in his rehab for a lat muscle injury, so the Nationals can certainly use the outfield help, but Ankiel doesn’t figure to provide much relief offensively or defensively.
Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale made a hasty exit from his final Grapefruit League outing on Saturday after sustaining a left hip contusion. He was struck on the leg with a line drive from the Astros’ J.D. Davis in the first inning and immediately collapsed on the mound. He was able to walk off the field without a noticeable limp, however, and later told reporters that the ball struck a nerve and temporarily stunned his leg. As a precautionary move, the Red Sox pulled him after the incident and will have the left-hander undergo X-rays to rule out any further injury to his hip.
This was expected to be Sale’s last start of spring training. Prior to Saturday’s matinee against the Astros, the 28-year-old southpaw made three starts in camp, allowing five runs, one home run, three walks and striking out 18 batters in 14 innings. He’s still on track to start the season for the Red Sox during their road opener against the Rays next Thursday.