Ankiel to return tomorrow, serve as primary center fielder

Rick Ankiel has rejoined the Nationals after a week-long rehab assignment as he works back from a lingering quad injury, and the veteran center fielder is set to come off the DL and enter the Nats lineup tomorrow.

Manager Davey Johnson said that Ankiel took part in a team workout this afternoon and "looks good to go."

"He's in great shape," Johnson said. "He had a great rehab program. Did awfully well. Talked to him in the training room earlier. He's feeling fine."

Ankiel hit .400 with three home runs during his eight-game rehab assignment, which included stints with Double-A Harrisburg, low Single-A Hagerstown and Triple-A Syracuse.

Johnson said that he won't hold Ankiel back once he return in order to prevent another setback to Ankiel's quad, and for the most part, the 32-year-old will serve as his regular center fielder.

"I don't have any limitations on him," Johnson said. "I like him out there. He's an outstanding defender. I like what I saw in spring in the limited time I got to see him.

"I'll use him just like I used him last year. Pretty much, he was my center fielder."

The Nationals will have to make a roster move in order to activate Ankiel, and it looks like outfielder Brett Carroll and infielder Steve Lombardozzi are in the most danger of being the one to lose a spot to Ankiel.

Sending Lombardozzi down to Triple-A would allow the Nationals to get the young middle infielder consistent playing time - something he isn't getting in the majors - but would leave the Nats without a true utility middle infielder. Carroll is very versatile and can serve as the Nats' emergency catcher, but he's gotten just one at-bat in the Nationals' seven games so far this season.

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