JUPITER, Fla. -- Ah, it's never felt so good to type that dateline.
Yes, I'm back in Florida and will be with the Nationals through the rest of camp. There is plenty still to sort out over the final eight games of the spring, from the battle for center field, the muddled picture in the bullpen and a host of possibilities on the bench.
The center field situation, in particular, interests me. There are any number of ways this could play out. Nyjer Morgan could retain his job. Rick Ankiel could win the competition. Roger Bernadina could take it. Jerry Hairston could work his way into the mix as a right-handed member of a platoon. Morgan and Bernadina could wind up on the bench. Either or both could wind up in Syracuse. There are no shortage of endgames for this story.
The bullpen, meanwhile, doesn't look to be as stable a unit as we all thought it would be when camp opened. Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard each have ERAs over 11.00. Todd Coffey's ERA in 7.27. Henry Rodriguez has been all over the place in his three appearances. Elvin Ramirez has yet to appear in a game. Only the two lefties have performed well this spring, with Sean Burnett having yet to allow a run in 6 2/3 innings and Doug Slaten owning an 8-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio through seven appearances. Rule 5 draftee Brian Broderick (0.84 ERA in seven games) also has pitched well and is pushing to earn a spot as the long man.
As for the bench, there are all kinds of possibilities as well. Much of it depends on what happens in center field and whether or not the club wants to keep extra defensive outfielders or to keep offensively minded bench players like Matt Stairs (who hit a pinch-hit homer yesterday) and/or Laynce Nix (who is starting in right field today and batting third).
Plenty more to come today and over the next nine days. I'll post the official gameday thread in a little while, but until then here are today's lineups...