For the second night in a row with new Skipper Davey Johnson filling out the lineup cards, Washington Nationals' oufielder Roger Berndina is penciled in at the top of the order, leading off and playing center field. When the 27-year-old outfielder was asked how he felt when he saw his place in Johnson's first lineup during an interview this afternoon on the Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio show "Inside PItch", Bernadina said, "It definitely felt good. We saw Davey Johnson in Spring Training, we already have a connection, and it was good to see my name leading off, definitely a good feeling."
The former Montreal Expos' prospect, who signed with the franchise as an amateur free agent in 2001, is hitless in his last seven at bats, but before being held off the bases in the last two games, (the finale with the White Sox and last night's loss to LA), Bernadina had hit in 10 of 11 games with multiple hits in four of the 10 games and two doubles, three HR's and eight RBI's in 51 at bats during that stretch. Those 10 games are the ten since Rick Ankiel went on the DL with a strained intercostal muscle (rib cage).
In the month of June, Bernadina's (27 for 88), .307/.358/.455. Getting the chance to play every day this year has made a big difference, Bernadina told "Inside Pitch" hosts Casey Stern and Jim Bowden. "You see more pitches, and that's important," Bernadina said, "Whenever you see the ball well and see pitches, it's going to make you only better. Now, I have an opportunity to play more and I'm [going to take] advantage of it." Bernadina, who stole 16 bases in 18 attempts over 134 games in 2010, has already stolen 11 bases through 46 games this year, and he's only been caught once so far. "Are you going to run more now," the former Nats' GM asked Bernadina today, "having the confidence to know they can't throw you out?"
"Whenever I get on base I want to run more," Bernadina said. "I definitely feel confident whenever I get on base I can go, and until whenever they tell me to, til whenever I get the hold sign, but otherwise, I'm going."
With all the talk around NatsTown about Jayson Werth's struggles at the plate and Matt Stairs' coming off the bench, it's interesting that Bernadina, when asked about the clubhouse atmosphere these days, cites those two veterans as the leaders of the team. "Since I've been in the big leagues," Bernadina explained, "Jayson Werth, he's been talking to me about baseball and you've got guys like Matt Stairs, those guys, the veterans they talk to you, and Jerry Hairston. We've got a great group of guys in the clubhouse. I definitely, for me, Jayson is the guy I look up to."
Asked about another teammate, Danny Espinosa, Bernadina said, "[Espinosa's] been great. Lately he's been clutch and the whole year he's been playing great. Great defender, he can run, he definitely has some tools. He's been real good for us, for the ballclub, I like the way he plays, and he's definitely a great player." Bernadina's not the only one impressed with Espinosa's play. SI.com's Tom Verducci named the Nats' second baseman his first-half ROY this afternoon in an article entitled, "In strange year, no surprises among Midseason Award choices."
Has Bernadina been impressive enough this season for the Nationals to call off the search for a new center fielder? According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the answer is no. Does Bernadina still project as an above average fourth outfielder in the future Nats' outfield or a starting center field who solves a problem at the top of the order and in center that seems to have existed forever on the Nats' roster? Bernadina's strong showing this month has him at .276/.330/.391 on the year, with a .333 BABIP, 110 wRC, a +0.5 WAR...he's made some highlight reel catches including two that are sure-thing candidates for catch of the year, but also looked surprised by flies at times, taking odd and often circuitous routes to balls that his speed allows him to misread and recover on. It's taken Rick Ankiel's injury after Nyjer Morgan's departure for Roger Bernadina to get the chance he's wanted to play everyday, will he be back sharing time in left after the trade deadline or when Ankiel returns, or in center all season to finally show what he can do in a full season?