Two days after the Nationals released him, longtime Washington outfielder Roger Bernadina signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Bernadina, formerly the franchise’s longest tenured player, will likely be uniform tonight when the Phillies host the Rockies.
The Nationals cut Bernadina on Monday after they traded for Cubs outfielder David DeJesus to take his place on their bench.
Struggling at the plate and receiving scant playing time, Bernadina welcomed the chance to finish the season with a new team. Nearly a dozen teams contacted Bernadina with interest. He chose the Phillies’ major league deal in part because of his familiarity with Citizens Bank Park and the stadium’s hitter-friendly dimensions.
Bernadina joined the Washington franchise when he signed a free agent contract with the Montreal Expos as a 17-year-old in 2001. Following the lead of left-handed starter John Lannan, Bernadina became the second recent long-tenured National to jump to the rival Phillies after being jettisoned by the Nationals.
In six uneven seasons with the Nationals, Bernadina never experienced the breakthrough the team long hoped for. He hit .243 with a .670 OPS and 25 homers over 1,317 plate appearances. He made spectacular catches, often after taking circuitous routes to the ball. On several days he looked like a potential all-star, and on many others he looked lost.
Bernadina became an oddly cultish figure. Teammates marveled at his muscled physique, honed by a trainer in the Netherlands named Hans. Fans dubbed him “The Shark” and waved their arms like jaws when he came to bat or made an acrobatic play. He wore the nickname as a badge of honor. He sometimes showed up late and always smiled.
Bernadina seemed to turn a corner in 2012, hitting .291/.372/.405 as a part-time player. The momentum evaporated this year. An offseason trade for Denard Span cut into his playing time. A pitch hit him in the hand as he played for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic and he never fell into a rhythm. At 29, he had the worst season of his career, hitting .178/.247/.270.
Bernadina will have a new chance with the team just up I-95. Incidentally, the Phillies optioned utility man Michael Martinez to the minors to make room on their roster for Bernadina. The Phillies selected Martinez off the Nationals’ roster in the 2010 Rule 5 draft.