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Rick Ankiel will come off the 15-day DL in time for tomorrow's game.
"You're going to see him tomorrow," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's in great shape. ... He looks good to go."
After dealing with a lingering quadriceps strain during spring training, Ankiel opened the season on the DL but immediately began a minor-league rehab assignment on Opening Day. In eight total games with low-Class A Hagerstown, Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse, he went 8-for-20 with three homers and seven RBI.
Signed in February to a minor-league contract, Ankiel wasn't added to the 40-man roster until March 30. Thus the Nationals weren't able to backdate his DL move until that day, making him ineligible to return until tomorrow.
The 32-year-old worked out at Nationals Park this afternoon and passed whatever tests team officials needed him to pass in order to be cleared to come off the DL.
Johnson won't waste any time easing Ankiel into the lineup, planning to start him in center field tomorrow and keep him there almost every day (aside from an occasional rest against left-handed opposing pitchers). The Nationals were encouraged by what they saw from the defensively stellar Ankiel at the plate this spring: a more relaxed approach and less of a propensity to try to pull every pitch to right field.
"I like what I saw in the spring in the limited time I got to see him," Johnson said. "He's using the whole field. He's much more in a relaxed hitting position. ... I'm expecting an improved Rick Ankiel this year, and I'll use him just like I used him last year. Pretty much he was my center fielder."
Ankiel's return will require the Nationals to remove someone from their roster before tomorrow's game. The most likely candidates appear to be outfielder Brett Carroll (who has received only one at-bat through the season's first seven games) or infielder Steve Lombardozzi (who started one game at second base but otherwise has seen limited action in left field).