Roger Bernadina hit a line drive today that did not stop going until it disappeared. He blasted a fastball from left-hander Kyle Chapman over both fences in right field, clear out of the stadium, another tantalizing display of his potential.
After a mid-spring lull, Bernadina has caught fire. In his past two games, Bernadina has gone 5 for 6 with two homers and a walk. He credited his work with hitting coach Rick Eckstein, focusing on keeping his body moving toward the pitcher, not bailing out before finishing his swing.
“That’s the key,” Bernadina. “I was coming off the ball a lot.”
Bernadina also made a jaw-dropping play on the bases. He took a big lead from first base with the bases loaded and one out. Jason Michaels cracked a hard grounder to third. In the dugout, Davey Johnson assumed the inning would end on a double play. When Johnson looked up, Bernadina had raced to second in an instant, in time to break up the double play – and, though he was called out, possibly in time to be safe.
“That was close,” Bernadina said. “Whatever it takes to get the run in.”
The thing about Bernadina is, we know he can do this. He will have moments where you wonder if, finally, that he has turned the corner. He will crush a homer over the right-center scoreboard at Nationals Park, or he will lace a double to the opposite field, or make a diving catch in the gap. And then days later, after an ugly strikeout or a botched route in the outfield, you will wonder what happened.
Bernadina is wonderfully talented, maddeningly inconsistent. At 27, Bernadina has reached an age when most ballplayers have developed fully. Johnson, though, believes Bernadina, who was born in Curacao, has more potential left to tap.
“He hasn’t had a lot of baseball background,” Johnson said. “He’s still learning about himself.”
Bernadina’s play this spring training – he’s hitting .279/.392/.442 – has likely assured his place on the Nationals. How he’ll be used remains to be seen. Bernadina could challenge Rick Ankiel for the everyday outfield job, but more likely he will serve as part of a left-field platoon in the event Michael Morse is not ready for the season.
If he can prove his latest is finally something more than that, the Nationals will find a place for him.