VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals announced recently that center field is up for grabs. But if the season were to start Friday, Rick Ankiel would be the Opening Day center fielder.

The competition in center field is between Ankiel, Roger Bernadina and Nyjer Morgan. One baseball person has Ankiel winning the job, followed by Bernadina and Morgan.

The Nationals love Ankiel's defense in center and are willing to accept the strikeouts he brings as a hitter. Ankiel is hitting .216 with three home runs and nine RBIs this spring.

If he is the Opening Day center fielder, Ankiel will platoon with Jerry Hairston Jr. Ankiel is 77-for-332 [.232] against left-handed pitching and will not see much action against southpaws.

As for Morgan and Bernadina, if they continue to lose ground, they could be optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. Morgan is hitting .205 with a .326 on-base percentage. Bernadina got off to a fast start, but is now hitting .275. with a .326 on-base percentage.

Nats considering Broderick for long relief

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals have to make decisions soon on right-handers Brian Broderick and Craig Stammen.

Entering Friday's action, Broderick, who is a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Cardinals, has allowed one run in 8 2/3 innings. If he were to make the Nationals' 25-man roster, Broderick would be a long reliever. Washington has been looking for a long reliever since Miguel Batista became a free agent and signed with St. Louis this past offseason.

Manager Jim Riggleman said Broderick is not being considered as a fifth starter. The skipper pointed out that the club has too many candidates for that job.

"He is forcing the issue. I'm glad to see he is doing it," Riggleman said about Broderick trying to make the roster. "His future is probably in that long-relief area or as a starter. He is not necessarily a guy who is going to throw an inning. He can give you a lot more than that. First, we have to see if he makes the club."

As for Stammen, he has allowed four runs in 7 2/3 innings this spring. Riggleman indicated that he has tremendous respect for Stammen, because he pitched most of 2009 with bone chips in his right elbow.

Last year, Stammen was healthy and got off to a slow start before being sent to the Minor Leagues. After he returned to the bigs, Stammen was sent to the bullpen to become a long reliever.

"Stammen is competing for that spot [as a long reliever]," Riggleman said. "One of the great things about Craig Stammen is he is a gamer. He will do anything you ask. He will pitch early, late, middle, start and with a sore arm.

"We still admire him for what he did in 2009 for going out there and pitching. There was a lot going on inside that elbow. That says a lot about the guy. He was getting his chance in the big leagues and he wasn't going to give it up. He did everything he could to help the ballclub and jeopardize himself."

Riggleman anticipating Zimmerman's return

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he hopes third baseman Ryan Zimmerman can begin baseball activities later this week and appear in games sometime next week. Zimmerman has missed the last four games with a left groin strain.

Zimmerman said recently his left groin injury isn't serious, and he would play if the regular season was under way.

It's the second injury Zimmerman has suffered this spring. He also missed time with an abdominal strain.

Pudge, Espinosa scratched from lineup

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez and second baseman Danny Espinosa were scratched from Friday's lineup against the Cardinals. Rodriguez is still nursing a calf injury, while Espinosa is nursing a right foot injury. The injuries are not considered serious.

Espinosa hurt himself after hitting a foul ball off his right foot against the Mets on Tuesday. That same day, Rodriguez was running in the outfield and felt tightness in his calf.