The Nationals could have optioned either Ross Detwiler or Ryan Mattheus from the bullpen, but Manager Davey Johnson wanted to ensure he didn’t have to stretch his bullpen.
Bernadina, 27, had become the everyday center fielder under Johnson. This season, he hit .247/.312/.352 with five homers in 293 plate appearances.
“I’ve really liked his enthusiasm,” Johnson said. “I’ve really liked his work – he’s been working on some things in the outfield. A brief stint down playing every day is not going to be a setback so much for him. And it’s really not a demotion. It’s really out of necessity, to keep the players here in this organization without have to make a massive change.
“My conversation with him was really positive. I said, ‘It just really came down to numbers. You don’t have to pack your bag until tomorrow. See what happens today.’ He understood. He’s well-liked here, and he’s done a good job.”
Bernadina is probably the best pure athlete on the Nationals, and he has shown signs, both this season and last, of harnessing his vast potential. But each time Bernadina has appeared ready to take off, he’s regressed. He’s currently 0 for his last 17.
Johnson said Bernadina is “working on being more direct to the ball” and that is swing can still be too long at times. Bernadina’s speed in the outfield is elite, but he often negates it with poor jumps or improper routes.
For now, the Nationals will use Rick Ankiel and Jerry Hairston in center field, but likely not for long. General Manager Mike Rizzo is intent on finding a long-term solution in center field, and he has already been active in trying to use this trade deadline to find it. The Nationals have been speaking the Rays about B.J. Upton and the Twins about Denard Span. The Nationals also reached out to the Astros about Michael Bourn as early as May this season.