Bernadina's knee looks good, Johnson expects him to be starter in center

Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina went through batting practice and pregame workouts prior to Tuesday's exhibition against the Boston Red Sox with no lingering issues from the right knee bruise suffered in Monday's game.

Bernadina was running around without limitations in the Nationals Park outfield during pregame and showed no ill effects getting hit on the knee by a failed pickoff throw. The 27-year old Curacao native was listed in the starting lineup, playing center field and batting ninth in the order.

This season is a big step, literally, for Bernadina in making the 2012 Nationals' 25-man roster. Manager Davey Johnson believes Bernadina has a chance to stick for a long time this season because of some adjustments in his swing and his outstanding workout regimen during the offseason.

"He always comes into camp looking like Adonis," Johnson said. "He is big and strong. He works out hard. But (this spring training) his stroke was a lot better. He didn't have the screwy little follow-through swing that he had last year. He got better extension. I think he is still kind of a young player who doesn't have a lot of experience, but I think he is starting to know who he is and what his capabilities are."

His spring statistics back up Johnson's claims. Bernadina had his best spring as a National, hitting .306 in 19 games with a double, two homers, eight RBIs and six walks. In his two previous springs, he hit .275 (2010) and .245 (2011).

Johnson said Bernadina is an example of a team-wide difference this year compared to last season's preseason start, and not just the outfielders.

"Both Bernadina and Rick Ankiel were much improved this spring," Johnson said. "I could say that about every offensive player on this ballclub. We came to camp looking better from what we finished up. Our approach was much better throughout the spring."

Johnson confirmed that Bernadina will begin the season as the "probable" Nationals starting center fielder Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

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