VIERA, Fla. -- According to manager Davey Johnson, the Nationals are close to bringing back outfielder Jason Michaels, who was released by the team on Thursday. Michaels would most likely start the season with Triple-A Syracuse.

Michaels -- who went 9-for-37 with a homer and seven RBIs this spring -- became expendable once Johnson decided that outfielder Xavier Nady would be given a chance to make the team as a bench player.

"I understood going in that nothing is a lock," Michaels said on Thursday. "I had to work my way on the team. I'll tell you: This is a great team, a lot of talent. I guess I wasn't the right fit. But I was very [grateful] for the opportunity to come here and compete."

Trip to DL may be in Ankiel's future

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals haven't ruled out placing center fielder Rick Ankiel on the 15-day disabled list to start the season.

Ankiel is still bothered by a tight left quad, an injury that has limited him to nine games this spring. No decision will be made until early next week.

"We are going to play it day by day," manager Davey Johnson said. "If he doesn't get some at-bats during the next couple of days, we might have to re-evaluate just to be on the safe side. He may get at-bats [in a rehab assignment] like Michael Morse."

If Ankiel is not ready, the Nationals will most likely have Roger Bernadina as the starting center fielder against the Cubs on Thursday.

Nats' final roster cuts to be made in DC

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals are not expected to make their final roster cuts until after they travel to Washington early next week. Injuries to such players as Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel are behind the decision to wait.

The team has some hard choices to make, among them whether to keep Chad Tracy, the team's RBI leader this spring, with 14. Tracy is a versatile player -- something manager Davey Johnson is looking for on the bench. In addition to first base, Tracy can play third base and left field. He was in Saturday's lineup as a third baseman.

"I like what he has brought to the lineup," Johnson said. "I like a guy who has some experience, [and he's a] left-handed bat off the bench. ... He and [Brett] Carroll have been my regulars [off the bench]. I do like Tracy, and it would be very difficult [to let him go]."

Saturday aside, Espinosa is Nats' second baseman

VIERA, Fla. -- Manager Davey Johnson said there's nothing to be read into Danny Espinosa starting at shortstop and Stephen Lombardozzi getting the nod at second base on Saturday against the Cardinals.

Johnson said when the season starts, Lombardozzi -- if he is put on the 25-man roster -- most likely will play shortstop when Ian Desmond needs a day off, and Espinosa will continue to play second base.

Should Desmond miss a lengthy period of time due to injury, Espinosa would play shortstop and Lombardozzi would play second.