Ankiel glad to be named Opening Day center fielder

Entering Spring Training, Rick Ankiel was one of three candidates who had a chance to start in left field for the Nationals.

By mid-March, Michael Morse won the job, leaving Ankiel fighting with Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina for the starting spot in center field.

A few hours after Morgan was traded to the Brewers on Sunday, the Nationals announced that Ankiel will be the Opening Day center fielder. Ankiel will platoon with Jerry Hairston Jr. at the position.

Ankiel won the spot over Morgan and Bernadina because he is superior defensively. The Nationals are willing to deal with Ankiel’s many strikeouts that he brings as a hitter.

“I’m excited,” said Ankiel about being named the Opening Day center fielder. “During the spring, you try to be that every-day guy. It’s exciting.”

Ankiel said he takes pride in his defense, thanks to his mentor, former Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds, who won eight Gold Gloves during his career.

“Since my time with [Edmonds], I work on that communication, make sure you get it right [in the outfield] and try to be really good out there,” Ankiel said.

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