By this time last season, Roger Bernadina had taken 107 plate appearances between spring training and the regular season. He was laying the ground for his best season to date, when he produced both coming off the bench and as a spot starter for injured outfielders. He had ample opportunity, and he took advantage.
This year has been different. Bernadina spent part of his spring flying around the world and playing for Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He took 38 plate appearances in the spring between the Grapefruit League and the WBC. The Nationals’ stable outfield has rendered him a spare part, and he has struggled mightily.
Bernadina has started the season 1 for 22 with a walk. Tonight, even with a right-handed starter on the mound, Manager Davey Johnson chose right-handed hitting Tyler Moore over Bernadina to replace Jayson Werth.
“It’s hard to work at something when you’re not playing,” Bernadina said. “I have to do whatever I have to do to get on base and help the team. Right now, it’s a tough situation. … Now, it’s much different. I’m not seeing much playing time at all. Of course, it’s tough. I haven’t got much playing time out there. We’ll see how that goes. It’s just a matter of time.”
Johnson said Bernadina playing in the WBC “had a little bit to do with” Bernadina’s dismal start. Bernadina said playing for the Netherlands made it harder to work on specific aspects of his swing, because “you got to right into all-intense” in competition. Still, he had no regrets about playing in the event.
“But I already chose to do that,” Bernadina said. “I don’t want to say now, because I played in the World Baseball Classic, that’s the thing. I’m just not in a good groove. I’m going to continue to work to get better.”
It may be difficult for him to crawl out of his slump without more regular time playing time – regular playing time that will not come barring something unforeseen. Bernadina, 29, appears to be more expendable with Denard Span, a left-handed center fielder, playing every day.
“It’s a different configuration this year,” Johnson said. “We’re more left-handed, and we have a left-handed leadoff hitter. Denard Span has been doing a heck of a job leading off and playing center fielder and getting on base. [Bernadina] is kind of the replacement part for that. So picking spots and giving him the opportunities, we don’t want to get too left-handed. But he’ll be all right.”
Bernadina agreed he’ll be all right, even if it takes longer than he hoped.
“It’s a real slow start for me right now,” Bernadina said. “I got to keep fighting, and eventually, it will work out. Right now, I’m in a tough time. I need to work on it and get better.”