Nationals plan to rotate Nix, Bernadina and Ankiel in outfield

With Rick Ankiel back from the disabled list, the Nationals now have the logjam in left and center field many thought they’d have to fix by taking an outfielder off their roster. Instead, they’ll rotate Ankiel, Roger Bernadina and Laynce Nix through two spots.

Ankiel is leading off and playing center field for the second time in three days today, and manager Jim Riggleman said this morning that he’ll try to get all three players regular time in the lineup. That’s a little tricky, since all three are left-handed and general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier this month that Bernadina needs to be playing every day in the majors or at Triple-A Syracuse, but Riggleman believes he can make it work.

“Laynce is really swinging the bat well, Bernie’s doing a good job, (Ankiel), our opening day center fielder, basically, came out of there because he made a great effort on a couple balls, rolled over his wrist. I’ve got to try to get him going,” Riggleman said.

The Nationals tried a similar plan last year at second base and shortstop, when they were trying to keep Adam Kennedy and Cristian Guzman in the lineup while developing Ian Desmond in the majors. Riggleman said that was more difficult, though, because there were two other ancillary players (Willie Harris and Alberto Gonzalez) who wanted playing time in the middle infield.

Bernadina is hittting .247 in 22 games, having cooled off after an impressive first week following his call-up in early May. But as Riggleman said the other day, he’s the closest thing the Nationals have to a classic leadoff hitter. It makes for an awkward lineup when he’s not in it, like the one where Ankiel is leading off today against Roy Halladay.

Riggleman, though, doesn’t have many options but to try and work all three players into the lineup.

“The implication (with Rizzo’s comment) is, (Bernadina’s) not going to be a pinch hitter. He’s not going to sit. He’s going to play a lot,” Riggleman said. “I’ve got two positions for three players. I’m not going to abandon Rick Ankiel at this point, and Nix is hitting fourth for us, swinging pretty good. So you’ve got to mix and match there a little bit.”