Roger Bernadina will be with the Nationals for at least 11 games as he replaces Rick Ankiel on the 25-man roster, and today’s lineup, which features him leading off and playing center, is an indication of what’s to come: Bernadina is going to get his chance to play.
The Nationals, barring a scheduling change, will not face a left-handed starter for another six games. Bernadina will likely play center field all those days.
“We want him playing,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “He’ll be out there for several days, as I look five, six ahead from now. He’ll be out there one way or another, either in center or in left. … But we want to get a look at him in center.”
At Class AAA Syracuse this season, Bernadina and Corey Brown alternated between center field and left field. In the past, Nationals officials have said he projects best as a left fielder. Bernadina feels good about both, but most comfortable in center.
Bernadina’s spot at the top of the lineup says as much about the Nationals’ current composition as it does Bernadina. Both Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa struggled hitting leadoff – the Nationals’ .228 on-base percentage out of the first spot ranks last in the majors, 20 points behind second-to-last Detroit.
“We’ve never tried to disguise the fact that we don’t really have a clear leadoff hitter, whether it’s Desmond earlier, or Danny” Riggleman said. “They’re filling in, doing the best they can, but neither one of them are really classic leadoff hitters. Bernie is probably not, but he’s probably closer to it than they are. While Bernie’s here, we’ll look at that.”
This is already the second time Bernadina has been recalled, about which the amiable Bernadina said, “you know, I just go with the flow,” a phrase I have heard him say dozens of times and could probably be etched on his tombstone. Bernadina is carefree, at least outwardly, so the shuttling between Syracuse and the majors isn’t likely to faze him. “I’ll just hang in there and do my thing,” he said.
That being the case, Bernadina has an opportunity to stick a while longer. With the opportunity he has to play, Bernadina could force the Nationals’ to keep him in the majors. “You always want to stay in the big leagues,” he said. It seems like he’ll have his chance to do that.