The Nationals have been plagued all season by the inability of their leadoff hitters to reach base, but they may have a season-long solution – or at least another attempt at one – in a surprising source. Days after being recalled from Class AAA Syracuse, Roger Bernadina has become, and may well continue to be for much of the season, the Nationals’ leadoff hitter.
When asked today about the likelihood of Bernadina remaining with the team after the return of Rick Ankiel, who’s eligible to come off the disabled list May 19, Manager Jim Riggleman gave a clear endorsement for Bernadina sticking with the Nationals.
“I certainly hope so,” Riggleman said. “We could use him there at the top of the lineup. Like a lot of things, we’re kind of reactionary. We react to how they play. If they play to a certain level, they make that decision easy for us. But he’s the more suited guy to lead off for us. We really want that to work.”
Nationals’ leadoff hitters this have reached base at a .234 clip, the worst in the majors and a whopping 33 points behind the 29th-ranked Tigers. The Nationals knew both Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa were not prototypical leadoff hitters, but they hoped one of them could handle the spot. Bernadina is not an ideal candidate, but Riggleman thinks he’s a better fit than Desmond or Espinosa, who both struggled and have been more productive elsewhere in the lineup.
“Bernie is probably the closest one to somewhat of a classic leadoff hitter,” Riggleman said. “I think all of them are better suited to hit second. Roger probably, of the three, has got a better chance to settle in there hitting leadoff for us. We’ll take a look at that, and hopefully that will get us generating some offense here at the top.”
In his limited appearances this season, Bernadina is 4 for 11 with a walk and a double. Last year, he hit .246/.307/.384 in 461 plate appearances.