The competition for the Nationals’ starting center field job has been one of the main battles in camp this year with Rick Ankiel, Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina all competing for one spot.
Friday, with trade rumors swirling and the impression that Ankiel was the clear frontrunner for the job, Morgan expressed his feelings to MLB.com that he would not be with the Nationals when they opened the season.
“I’m a realist,” Morgan told MLB.com. “I’m not going to sit here and be like ‘Oh, no, I want to finish my career here.’ I just think this place isn’t for me. I’m not saying there are bad people here. It’s just that, maybe I’m not a fit here anymore. It’s time to move on.”
Prior to the team’s game Saturday in Kissimmee against Houston — a game Morgan did not travel to and instead will play in a minor league game at the Nationals’ training complex — Nationals manager Jim Riggleman told reporters he was “disappointed” when he read the comments.
“I’m sure it’s based on seeing the two or three other guys he’s competing with,” Riggleman told reporters. “Maybe he feels like we’re sending him a message that he’s not our center fielder. We’re still determining that. We’re still determining where he fits on the club if he’s not our center fielder.
“I’m disappointed, but I understand where it’s coming from.”
Morgan had a sluggish start to his spring. When Michael Morse seized the left field job for his own the competition for the third outfield spot shifted to center field. Morgan has improved his play as of late, and has made a conscious effort to put the drama from 2010 behind him.
“The thing about it is, Nyjer has been a tremendous worker this spring. He’s been the first guy here. He’s putting in the time in the cage, working with (third base coach) Bo Porter on his base running. He’s been an outstanding all-around guy. So I’m disappointed that he feels that.”
— As a disclaimer, I have returned to the Washington, D.C. area to help put together our baseball preview section (which you should be sure to pick up in Wednesday’s paper.) I’ll still do my best to keep you updated on the final few days of camp.