The Washington Times - March 21, 2011, 10:33PM

VIERA, Fla. — Today was a busy day for the Nationals. It started with Bryce Harper being carted off the field at the Nationals’ training complex in Viera with a left ankle sprain and ended with a benches-clearing altercation on the field between Washington and St. Louis at Roger Dean Stadium.

You can read all about the drama from today’s game here.


But I didn’t want to overlook a few things other that happened in today’s game.

— In the battle for center field, Nyjer Morgan was the only active contender for a starting spot that played significantly today. Rick Ankiel also played but only minimally, coming in as a pinch runner for Adam LaRoche in the seventh inning and going 0-for-1 at the plate.

Morgan didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his performance. He was 1-for-4 at the plate, with a single to leadoff the game but erased it shortly thereafter when he was easily caught stealing, making a break for second base so early that he was picked off at second by Cardinals’ pitcher Chris Carpenter.

He grounded back to the pitcher in his next at-bat, flew out to center in his last at-bat and was out on the now well-documented bunt attempt that ended with him running into Albert Pujols in the fifth.

The Nationals are home in Viera on Tuesday against the Astros before a scheduled off day on Wednesday. It’ll be interesting to see who is in the lineup on Tuesday in center field.

— Brian Broderick, Doug Slaten and Sean Burnett, three of the Nationals best performers this spring, all performed well again on Monday. Broderick was the only one of the three to even allow a hit (2) but all held the Cardinals scoreless in four combined innings of work.

Slaten and Burnett are the only two left-handed relievers the Nationals have in camp, so their spots were never really in jeopardy. Not to mention, Burnett has easily been the team’s best reliever all spring, yet to allow an earned run in 7.1 innings of work.

At this point, the only way Broderick, a Rule V pick, doesn’t make the team is if there’s a numbers crunch. If they do end up deciding not to put him on the 25-man roster, it won’t be because of his performance this spring.

— Laynce Nix, who is theoretically battling for a bench spot with Matt Stairs, made the most of his opportunity to start in right field on Monday. Nix was 2-for-4, along with being the first hit-by-pitch victim of the day.

Nix also chugged into third with an RBI-triple in the fourth after Ian Desmond walked to lead off the inning. His numbers for the spring: .250 (8-for-32), with two doubles, one triple, one home run, four RBI, two walks and nine strikeouts.

— Adam LaRoche said on Friday that it usually takes him 50-60 spring training at-bats in order to feel comfortable. He’s had about 2/3 that many (38) so it should be encouraging to the Nationals that he’s hitting .368 and was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and a single in Monday’s game. He also made a fantastic diving stab at first base to help Broderick escape his first inning of work unscathed after he allowed two singles and threw a wild pitch.

— Livan Hernandez once again did what he does, going five innings on 83 pitches, allowing two earned runs off six hits and three walks. The two runs came in the fourth inning when Pujols and Matt Holliday led off the inning with a single and a double, respectively and were eventually driven in. Hernandez faced seven batters in the inning but had been spotted a four-run lead in the top half of the frame.

Hernandez was satisfied with his performance. He’ll have one more start this spring before he gets the ball on Opening Day at Nationals Park.