WASHINGTON -- The Nationals announced the signing of a two-year player-development contract with the Auburn Doubledays of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League.

The news means Washington is no longer affiliated with Class A Vermont.

"We are delighted to add Auburn to the Nationals' family," team president Stan Kasten said in a statement. "This agreement again narrows the footprint of our Minor League system, and starting next summer, Auburn and the Doubledays' fan base will get their first glimpse at the rewards reaped from both our scouting and player-development systems."

By partnering with Auburn, the Nationals' Class A affiliate is now closer to Washington, and just 35 miles west of Syracuse, the Nationals' Triple-A affiliate.

The Doubledays play in 2,706-seat Falcon Park, which opened 1995 and includes arguably the best home clubhouse in the New York-Penn League. The team is named after Abner Doubleday, the Civil War general and Auburn, N.Y., native who has often been credited with inventing the game of baseball.

The Doubledays -- whose run of six consecutive Pinckney Division titles (2002-07) was capped by a league championship in 2007 -- recently ended a working relationship with the Blue Jays.

Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Luis Gonzalez, Aaron Hill, Kenny Lofton and Rick Dempsey are among those who played stints for Auburn during their Minor League careers.

Outfielder Bernadina trying to find swing

WASHINGTON -- Entering Tuesday's game against the Astros, Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina found himself in an 8-for-55 (.145) slump and has seen his average go down to .253.

Manager Jim Riggleman doesn't believe that Bernadina is physically tired. The skipper believes he's trying to find his swing.

Bernadina is in his first full season with the Nationals and is trying to prove he should be an everyday player.

The team already is convinced Bernadina should remain a left fielder. He started the season in right field and looked shaky at times. After Josh Willingham hurt his left knee in mid-August, Bernadina was inserted in left field and has looked comfortable.

"I think he is young in terms of experience but he is 26 years old, so the clock is ticking," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He has to show us that he is a player this year. He has shown us that. Is there more in there? Certainly. He is better than what he has shown this year. But he has shown quite a bit.

"He steals bases, plays a very good left field. He has a great arm. He has displayed flashes of power. He is a guy that we are trying to get as much information on because we have to see about next year."