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09/15/11 1:10 PM ET

Ankiel takes pride in defense

NEW YORK -- Rick Ankiel is arguably the best center fielder in Nationals history. He has already made several phenomenal defensive plays, the latest coming Wednesday night with the winning run at the plate.

Mets shortstop Jose Reyes hit a 2-0 pitch to the gap in left-center. It looked as though the ball was going to drop for at least a two-run double, but Ankiel had other ideas, diving and making a sensational catch to end the game.

Asked how he became an excellent defensive center fielder, Ankiel said, "I just try and work on it. You work on your jumps every day. I think over time, when you put your time in, it starts to become a little more natural. You just become better at it."

Instead of day off, Werth talks way into lineup

NEW YORK -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson was planning to give outfielder Jayson Werth the day off Thursday afternoon against the Mets, but Werth was able to talk him out of it.

According to Johnson, Werth has been bothered by left knee and calf injuries, which is the reason he was shifted from center field to right field starting Wednesday night.

"He is getting treatment on it every day," Johnson said. "He had some strange looking blue tape on it [Wednesday] night. I texted him early this morning and asked if he needed a blow, a day off. He texted me back and said, 'I'm fine. I felt stiff yesterday, but I feel good.' So he is in the lineup."

Werth, who signed a seven-year, $127 million contract last winter, has struggled at the plate, hitting .234 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs. Johnson doesn't believe that injuries played a role in his offensive problems.

Johnson believes Werth has taken on too many roles, including trying to be a leader for the young players.

"I think there are a lot of reasons," Johnson said. "I think he took a lot of responsibility for a young ballclub. Adam LaRoche was out, Ryan Zimmerman was out. He was basically the only veteran in the lineup.

"I think he had to wear too many hats and not worrying about No. 1. I think he is getting over that. I think he is more comfortable and the supporting cast is starting to perform better. So I think everything is getting more normal."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.