VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals knew they’d have to start the season with some integral parts of their roster on the disabled list. Michael Morse, Drew Storen and Chien-Ming Wang are expected to begin the year there as they each work back from injuries that are not considered major but aren’t ones to be rushed, either.
Add another name to the probable list as Rick Ankiel is still struggling with some left quad tightness that has hampered him for much of the spring. If he can’t get into a game in the next three days, which appears likely at this point, Ankiel may have to start the year on the disabled list, backdated to March 27. He would be eligible to return by April 11.
“If he didn’t get some at-bats the last couple days, we might have to re-evaluate, just to be on the safe side, to start the season,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson.
Johnson mentioned the possibility of Ankiel getting at-bats in Bowie, where Double-A Harrisburg will open the season, to sharpen him up before he’s ready for the active roster.
Ankiel first felt something on March 9 when he was pulled from a game in Jupiter. The Nationals put him on a few days of rest and gave him a significant amount of treatment to try and help work whatever knot was in there out. On March 20, he returned to the lineup and all parties felt the worst was behind them. But Tuesday, March 27, things tightened up again for Ankiel and he was pulled from the game early.
Now, the man who would be the Nationals’ Opening Day center fielder if he was healthy is simply waiting for the day when the discomfort is gone. He did some running inside a pool on Saturday and he’s been getting treatment to reduce the swelling while taking some soft toss in the batting cage.
“It’s a little slower than I expected or wanted it to be,” Ankiel said. “But it is what it is. I felt pretty good, just had a little flare up, a little aggravated there. So, now we just take it day by day and go from there.”
The idea with Ankiel, as well as Morse, Storen and Wang, is to let them miss a few days or weeks at the start of the season in order to ensure they won’t be starting and stopping for much of the season with various nagging issues.
“I don’t think you ever want to put yourself in a position to miss more time than needed,” Ankiel said. “It’s just a little tight and when you feel like that, you just don’t want it to turn into something more than that. The key is just getting that out of there, and letting it feel fluid and feel good.”
If Ankiel is placed on the disabled list, along with Morse, Storen, Wang, Cole Kimball and Chris Marrero, it would leave the Nationals with very few remaining roster decisions.
Brett Carroll, Xavier Nady, Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy would all go north with the team.
The Nationals’ final three cuts, then, would come from two pitchers (which right now appear to be Craig Stammen and Chad Durbin) and catcher Carlos Maldonado. The only guesswork involved there is if the Nationals opt to keep Durbin, who is currently away from the team after the birth of his second son on Friday, and option Ryan Mattheus to the minor leagues. That, however, does not appear likely as Johnson is extremely fond of Mattheus.