Bernadina thankful for big opportunity
Outfielder went 1-for-3 with run scored vs. Tigers on Monday
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Roger Bernadina was sitting quietly near his locker at Joker Marchant Stadium late Monday morning. As two reporters approached him about playing his first big-league Spring Training game, catcher/infielder Robert Fick jokingly tried to squash the interview and said, "He has nothing to say to you guys. He made the road trip; he's in the starting lineup."
Bernadina, however, knows that the media, the Nationals' front office and manager Manny Acta are keeping a close eye on him. With center fielder Nook Logan expected to start the season on the disabled list, Washington wants to see how Bernadina handles himself against big-league pitching the next few days.
After playing in a Minor League intrasquad game on Sunday afternoon, Bernadina was informed by Double-A Harrisburg manager Scott Little to be at Space Coast Stadium the next morning in order to travel with the parent club to Lakeland to play the Tigers.
"It was after the Minor League game and they told me that I had to be here at 8 a.m.; I was surprised," the 22-year-old said. "It's a nice opportunity. It's something I wanted my whole life. I want to get to the big leagues and want to show these guys [that I belong]."
The scouting report on Bernadina is that he is a Logan equal in center field, but, like Logan, had problems with the bat. Bernadina has never played above high Class A ball. His highest batting average in professional baseball was .270, and that was for Potomac in 2006. He has a .248 career average in five seasons.
Bernadina also has problem making contact, striking out 98 times in 434 at-bats last season. Bernadina arrived in the team's accelerated camp this spring and was determined to improve his hitting. The goal was not to swing at every pitch.
"This game is about being consistent. The thing was to repeat my same swing every time. Don't try to change it -- have a plan out there," Bernadina said. "All I want to do is look for a pitch in the zone -- a pitch I can look to drive."
Those rules of hitting appeared to work in the Minor League intrasquad games this spring, and it earned him a promotion to big-league camp.
"He has had a great spring," general manager Jim Bowden said. "He has swung the bat well. The guy can really get the ball in center field. In fact, many of our people have compared him to Nook Logan. We are going to watch him. This is a kid who has tremendous range in the outfield and swung the bat. We are going to have open eyes."
In the game against the Tigers, the left-handed-swinging Bernadina went 1-for-3 and scored a run in a 6-5 loss. In his first at-bat in the top of the third, Bernadina struck out swinging on a breaking ball by left-hander Mike Maroth. Bernadina, however, figured Maroth out by the top of the fifth inning by hitting a single to right field on an inside fastball. In his last at-bat, Bernadina grounded out to second base in the seventh inning against right-hander Todd Jones.
"I felt pretty good out there," Bernadina said. "The first at-bat, I wanted to see a couple off-speed pitches. The last pitch, he threw me a good breaking ball to strike [me] out. In my second AB, I got the pitch I was looking for. I'm happy, but it's bad that we lost."
Bernadina was born in Curacao, Netherlands. His love for the game comes from his parents. His mother was a softball player and his dad played semi-pro ball. But the person who convinced Roger that he could make it to the big leagues was Braves center fielder Andruw Jones, who is from Willemstad in Curacao.
"He was up in the big leagues before everybody. I think you have to work to get better every day like Andruw," he said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.