The Washington Times - March 30, 2012, 05:20PM

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals took one more step toward finalizing their 25-man roster before Opening Day by purchasing the contract of outfielder Rick Ankiel and essentially confirming that he will be their starting center fielder.

Ankiel is currently nursing a sore quad and Roger Bernadina is also away from the team for his father’s funeral so the Nationals were using, as manager Davey Johnson termed it, their “third” outfield option Friday night against the Miami Marlins. It was an outfield anchored by Jayson Werth in center field with Mark DeRosa in left field and Xavier Nady playing right. 

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None of that should be surprising, but it was a necessary procedural move for the Nationals to get both their 25- and 40-man rosters settled by Opening Day. And despite the natural movement across baseball this time of year, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he didn’t expect to augment the team’s final roster from outside of the organization.

“Barring something out of the ordinary, I think you’re looking at the 25 men somewhere in this camp,” Rizzo said Friday. 

The Nationals cut Jason Michaels and Andres Blanco on Thursday, releasing Michaels and reassigning Blanco to minor league camp. Rizzo said Blanco is leaning toward opting out of his minor league deal and trying to find a job elsewhere while Michaels is free to look for other opportunities but the Nationals haven’t ruled out him returning to the organization as minor league depth.

“It doesn’t mean he’s definitely going to another team,” Rizzo said. “I have a great affection for Jason… He just wasn’t a fit at this time but I’d love to have him in the organization. I think he’ll help us or somebody in the big leagues very soon.”

The Nationals 40-man roster is now at 39 and they currently have 34 players in camp so they’ll need to trim nine from that number but five are expected to go on the disabled list (Cole Kimball, Chris Marrero, Drew Storen, Michael Morse, Chien-Ming Wang) and two (Kimball, Marrero) will go on the 60-day disabled list so they will be removed form the 40-man roster giving the Nationals three spots in which to add the final components of their roster, though they’ll only need two.

Right now, Brett Carroll and Xavier Nady look to have the inside track on those two spots.

While it appears likely that Steve Lombardozzi has earned a spot on the roster, neither Rizzo or Johnson will confirm that at this point. 

“I still think those last couple spots are still up for grabs,” Rizzo said. “We feel that Lombo brings great versatility for Davey and it’s all about ‘Can Davey get him enough at-bats to make it worth his while to be in the big leagues, instead of playing every day in the minor leagues.’”