Feb 5, 2012, 10:43 PM EDT
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Rick Ankiel will return to the Nationals on a minor-league contract.
Still in search of a center fielder in the short term and a left-handed bat for their bench over the full season, the Nationals have re-signed Rick Ankiel to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, a club source confirmed.
Ankiel, 32, hit .239 with nine homers, 37 RBI and a .296 on-base percentage last season with the Nats, but he made his real contribution to the team in the outfield, where his brilliant arm produced nine assists.
The veteran was holding out hope for a big-league deal and the possibility of an everyday job with another club, but he settled for a minor-league deal with the Nationals and a chance to make the roster out of spring training.
If general manager Mike Rizzo doesn’t add another center fielder, Ankiel should have a decent opportunity to win a spot in the Opening Day lineup and perhaps platoon with fellow veteran Mike Cameron in center field. Eventually, though, Bryce Harper’s promotion from the minors would likely push Jayson Werth to center field and bump Ankiel to the bench.
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