The Washington Times - April 14, 2012, 02:58PM

Rick Ankiel was back inside the Nationals’ clubhouse Saturday morning, his left quad feeling 100 percent healed, and his excitement level perhaps a bit higher than that of the rest of his teammates.

“This is Opening Day for me,” Ankiel said. “I’m ready to go out and be able to contribute and help the team.”

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Ankiel hit .400 (8-for-20) in eight rehab games, including three home runs and five walks. Ankiel was pleased with how he was able to produce during his assignment and several Nationals officials were impressed with the way he was able to use the whole field offensively. At least one of his home runs was to the opposite field.

Ankiel was asked if he felt like he was where he’d like to be at, as far as his timing and seeing pitches at the plate. He was blunt.

“I’m where I’m at, period,” Ankiel said. “It doesn’t really matter. I feel good. It is what it is. I’m ready to go.”

The hope is that this lingering quad issue is finally behind him after he stopped and started with it twice during spring training. Ankiel said twice he felt like he was “100 percent” and really felt that way for sure once he began playing nine innings at the start of this week with Single-A Hagerstown.

Ankiel becomes the Nationals’ primary center fielder, though manager Davey Johnson said their left field situation remains a “work in progress” in the absence of outfielder Michael Morse, who will be out until at least June with a strained right lat. Xavier Nady, Mark DeRosa and Roger Bernadina will all share time out there, as well as possibly Steve Lombardozzi (three-and-a-half options, Johnson called it). 

Morse was playing in Hagerstown with Ankiel on Monday when he suffered the most recent setback, that has him in “total shutdown mode,” as Nationals GM Mike Rizzo put it, for the next six weeks. 

“It seemed like when we went to Hagerstown, we had a game there and it was really cold,” Ankiel said. “I’m sure it was tough for him to stay loose and get loose. He had a play out there where he had to make a longer throw, whatever it was, and that was probably where he got sore and he had the setback. 

“We want him here. We hope whoever can take his place will step up and, certainly, it seems like that’s happening.”

Here are the full lineups behind Edwin Jackson and Homer Bailey:

Nationals

Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Xavier Nady LF
Rick Ankiel CF
Jesus Flores C
Edwin Jackson P

Reds

Willie Harris 2B
Zack Cozart SS
Joey Votto 1B
Jay Bruce RF
Miguel Cairo 3B
Chris Heisey LF
Drew Stubbs CF
Devin Mesoraco C
Homer Bailey P