Nats bring back Ankiel on minor league deal

Greetings from Southwest Airlines Flight 2039, where we're somewhere east of Salt Lake City - maybe around Oklahoma - and heading to Baltimore. I can't escape the Nationals news, even for a few days.

According to multiple reports, the Nationals have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with Rick Ankiel, which includes an invite to spring training, where Ankiel will compete for at least a share of the team's center field job.

The 32-year-old Ankiel batted .239 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 122 games for the Nationals last year. But he hadn't landed a job until the Nationals locked him up today.

News that Ankiel could return in 2012 might indicate that the Nationals aren't sold on the notion of Bryce Harper starting the season on the 25-man roster. Presumably, Ankiel could function as part of a center field platoon, with Jayson Werth shifting back to his normal spot in right field. Or, if Harper hits his way onto the club in spring training, Ankiel's superior defense, strong arm and decent speed could set him up nicely to win a spot as a backup outfielder.

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