The Washington Times - March 27, 2011, 11:20AM

After trading Nyjer Morgan to the Milwaukee Brewers this morning, the Nationals look poised to go with Rick Ankiel as their starting center fielder, in a platoon of sorts with Jerry Hairson Jr. (against left-handed pitchers), and made their potential lineups a lot easier to shake out.

With Morgan gone, the Nationals are now officially lacking a true leadoff hitter — but sliding Jayson Werth into the second slot in the batting order alleviates some of the pressure to have that traditional leadoff man.

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Most likely, when Ankiel plays center field, shortstop Ian Desmond will bat leadoff. Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche will follow for the Nationals 1-4. On days where the Nationals are facing a left-hander, Hairston will get the chance at leadoff — again followed by Werth, Zimmerman and LaRoche.

Ultimately it’s all about on-base percentage and with Werth and Zimmerman (who both had OBP’s of .388 in 2010) batting second and third they’ve got two of their highest OBP guys at the top of the lineup already. The protection Werth would bring for someone like Desmond, who really profiles better in the two or six hole, would likely help Desmond’s OBP from 2010 (.307) rise.

The Nationals will face right-hander Derek Lowe and the Braves on Opening Day, so here’s one projection of what that lineup will look like:

1. Ian Desmond SS
2. Jayson Werth RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
4. Adam LaRoche 1B
5. Michael Morse LF
6. Rick Ankiel CF
7. Danny Espinosa 2B
8. Ivan Rodriguez C
9. Livan Hernandez P

Against a left-hander:

1. Jerry Hairston Jr. CF
2. Jayson Werth RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
4. Adam LaRoche 1B
5. Michael Morse LF
6. Ian Desmond SS
7. Danny Espinosa 2B
8. Ivan Rodriguez C
9. Pitcher

There is a chance that Espinosa could hit somewhere other than seventh, though manager Jim Riggleman has said in a perfect world he’d like the rookie to bat there. Espinosa does have experience as a leadoff hitter from the minor leagues, so there could be times where he’s tabbed to bat first and when Wilson Ramos plays at catcher instead of Rodriguez, he would almost certainly bat higher than eighth in the lineup.