By C. Trent Rosecrans
Rick Ankiel is returning to the Nationals -- or their camp, at least. Washington has signed the outfielder to a minor-league deal with an invite to the big league camp, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times tweeted and CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman confirmed.
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Ankiel hit .239/.296/.363 with 9 home runs in 122 games last season for the Nationals, his first year in Washington. He'd signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Nationals after spending 2010 with the Royals and Braves. Ankiel won the starting center field job out of spring training, leading to the Nationals' trade of Nyjer Morgan to Milwaukee. Washington, though, continues to search for a center fielder for the future and has been tied to the Angels' Peter Bourjos in some rumors that would have the Nationals sending right-hander John Lannan to Anaheim, allowing the Angels to make way for Mike Trout in center. Roger Bernadina is currently slated to start in center for the Nationals and they've also added Mike Cameron. Jayson Werth could also start in center if Bryce Harper makes the team out of spring as the right fielder.
The 32-year-old is a career .246/.309/.423 hitter in five seasons as a full-time outfielder after originally coming to the big leagues as a starter with the Cardinals. After suffering control problems, he went back to the minors and returned to St. Louis as an outfielder in 2007. In 2008, he hit 25 home runs, his best as a big leaguer.
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