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Rick Ankiel has been hampered by a tight quadriceps muscle all spring.
Ankiel was out of the lineup today and will miss his fifth straight game tomorrow when the Nationals travel to Jupiter to face the Cardinals. With only two more exhibition games remaining -- Monday in Fort Myers, Tuesday in Washington -- Ankiel is running out of time to get at-bats before Thursday's season opener in Chicago.
"If he didn't get some at-bats the last couple days, we might have to re-evaluate," manager Davey Johnson said following today's 6-2 loss to St. Louis. "Just to be on the safe side, to start the season."
Ankiel, projected to begin the season as the Nationals' starting center fielder, thought he had overcome this issue about a week ago when he returned to the lineup. But the tightness he's felt in his left quadriceps muscle has never completely dissipated.
"It's a little slower than I expected or wanted it to be," he said. "It's just a little tight. When you feel like that, you don't want it to turn into something more than that."
Ankiel said he'd rather spend a few days on the disabled list at the start of the season than miss considerable time later in the year.
"Absolutely," he said. "I don't think you ever want to put yourself in a position to miss more time than needed. I think you take the time and get it right and move from there."
If Ankiel does land on the DL, the Nationals would turn to Roger Bernadina as their Opening Day center field and have him platoon with the right-handed Brett Carroll.
A DL move would also open a spot on the 25-man roster for Chad Tracy. The veteran first baseman homered today and leads the club with 15 RBI this spring but looked like the odd man out on the Nationals' bench.
Johnson echoed what general manager Mike Rizzo said yesterday: The Nationals will pick their 25-man roster from within the current group assembled in Viera. They won't look outside the organization.
Said Johnson: "We have all contingencies covered here."