Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina has had one chance after another to carve a full-time role for himself with the club. His last opportunity might have arrived over the weekend.
Now 28, he is as fast as ever and uses that speed effectively when in the outfield and on the base paths. Bernadina’s versatility convinced the front office that it was Rick Ankiel who needed to be designated for assignment last week when the Nationals needed a roster spot, and Bernadina rewarded Washington with a stellar end to the week (11- for-19).
“They make the move, whatever that is, I just go about my business and do whatever I can,” Bernadina said. “You hate to see that, but they make a decision and I go from there.”
Washington needed him, too. Rookie outfielder Bryce Harper smashed a ball off his ankle in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Atlanta on Saturday and Bernadina took over in the third inning and started Game 2. The Nats were already playing with a four-man bench after Ankiel was cut. Jayson Werth has just begun a rehab assignment in the minors from a broken left wrist. This is a chance for Bernadina to finally establish his role.
It’s still a small sample size, of course. Bernadina only had 142 at-bats coming into play Tuesday. He had a career-high 414 in 2010. But this year his average (.289), on-base percentage (.366), slugging percent- age (.394) and OPS (.760) are all well above career norms. The last two weeks have been “nothing but qual- ity at-bats,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said.
“Just focus on using the whole field,” Bernadina said. “I keep working. They give me a chance, and I’ll do whatever I can to help the ballclub. But not any changes.”
That will keep Bernadina in John- son’s good graces. He already knows what that speed brings. Bernadina used it in the 10th inning Monday. Following a comebacker, he got on top of second base so quickly that shortstop Ruben Tejada dropped the throw, thwarting a double play. It didn’t go unnoticed that Bernadina finished the play hard, going out of his way to spike Tejada. The Nats scored six runs in the inning and won 8-2.