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.
Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.
The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.
Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.
Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.
Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.
Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.