WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina is having his best season in the big leagues. Entering Thursday's action against the Cubs, Bernadina was hitting a career-high .304 with four home runs and 23 RBIs.
Bernadina said one of the reasons for his success is that he is more focused at the plate. Instead of trying to hit for power, Bernadina's approach is to hit the baseball up the middle. It also helps that he has an idea when he will get into a game while coming off the bench.
"My approach is to go more up the middle and try not to do too much with it," said Bernadina, the man affectionately known as "The Shark." "[In the past] I tried to do too much. Sometimes I would get a pitch I could hit and I would foul it off.
"Now, I'll probably get one AB a night. You have to be ready for that pitch. Whenever you don't start, you have to be more patient and look for your pitch. It's like that moment, you have to focus on that AB. You do whatever you can do. You have to have the mentality day in and day out."
Bernadina also credits teammate Mark DeRosa for telling him to use a lighter bat. To start the season, Bernadina was using a 34 1/2-ounce bat. He now uses 33- and 31-ounce bats.
"All those things together [sticking to his plan at the plate and DeRosa's advice], it's turned out well," Bernadina said. "Coming from the bench, you have to have a different mentality. It worked out well this season.
"[DeRosa] is a great teammate. He definitely brings a lot in the clubhouse. He has been in the league for a while. He always has something that he sees. He is ready to help. He is definitely a great teammate."
Burnett planning to test elbow Saturday
WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander Sean Burnett, who hasn't pitched since Sunday because of elbow soreness, will try to play catch Saturday, according to manager Davey Johnson.
If things go according to plan, the team hopes Burnett can pitch in a game by Monday against the Mets in New York.
Burnett said he experienced elbow soreness for about two months, but was able to post respectable numbers. In 61 games, Burnett has a 2.49 ERA, but allowed five earned runs in his last 5 1/3 innings.
"[The doctor] thinks it was more like an inflamed nerve," Johnson said. "Hopefully that medication ... will clear it up."
Lannan's next start still to be determined
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson is not sure when left-hander John Lannan will get a start. The skipper thought Lannan would get a start during the series against the Braves next week, but Johnson didn't take into account that the team has a day off Thursday and Sept. 17. It was assumed that Lannan would replace Stephen Strasburg in the rotation for the rest of the regular season.
"It's still in the works," Johnson said.
Barring an injury, the Nationals don't need Lannan in the postseason rotation. In a short series, they need only four starters.
At Triple-A Syracuse this season, Lannan went 9-11 with a 4.30 ERA. The 27-year-old left-hander also blossomed in his final two starts with the Chiefs, throwing two straight shutouts to end his season in the Minors. He was named the International League Pitcher of the Week last week.
Gio thinking of injured former teammate McCarthy
WASHINGTON -- A day after winning his National League-leading 18th game of the season, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez's thoughts were on former Athletics teammate Brandon McCarthy, who took Erick Aybar's line drive off his head with two outs in the fourth inning Wednesday. McCarthy suffered an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture.
The A's released a statement saying McCarthy "is alert, awake and resting comfortably" after undergoing surgery to relieve pressure in his head.
"He is one of the biggest-respected guys in baseball. He is one of the guys I looked up to when I was in Oakland. He is unbelievable," Gonzalez said. "When the guy is healthy, he is lights-out. When you see something like that happen to him, I wish him the best. I just hope nothing happened. I hope he is OK. He is one of those guys I wish we could build a shield once in a while. It's just one of those things you dread not to happen. ... I hope he is healthy. I hope he is strong. I hope he bounces back."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.