Bernadina expects to be ready opening day, plus final notes

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Roger Bernadina had to leave today’s game against the Red Sox less than five minutes after it started.

Bernadina was hit on the outside of his right knee by an Aaron Cook pickoff throw during the top of the first inning, and after getting some attention from the training staff, the Nationals outfielder limped off the field.

Expected to be the Nats center fielder on opening day this Thursday, Bernadina said after the game that there’s some minor swelling in the knee, but that he doesn’t think there will be any serious long-term issues.

“I’m feeling OK,” Bernadina said. “I feel better now. I should be fine.”

Bernadina, whose injury was diagnosed as a knee contusion, said he was in a lot of pain shortly after being drilled by Cook’s errant toss, but iced the injury to help minimize the swelling. He expects to be feeling better tomorrow and should be ready for the opener at Wrigley Field, an experience he’s excited for.

“Yeah, that’d be good,” Bernadina said. “Whatever I can to help the team. It’s an honor to (play) opening day. I’m looking forward to it.”

Manager Davey Johnson had hoped to get Bernadina a full nine innings today to help make up for the fact the outfielder has only gotten two at-bats since last Tuesday. Bernadina missed a couple games last week while he was home in Curacao for his father’s funeral.

Johnson hopes to be able to slot Bernadina into his lineup for tomorrow’s exhibition against the Red Sox at Nationals Park.

“I delayed going out there (to check on him) because I wanted him to play,” Johnson said. “He’s been missing time, but he looked like he was in a whole lot of pain. He dragged me out there. But hopefully it’s nothing serious and he’ll be ready to go tomorrow. I want to get him playing.”

Chad Tracy had two of the Nationals’ five hits today, raising his spring average to .264. He finishes spring training as the Nats’ team leader in RBIs with 15, and ends on a hot streak, hitting .346 (9-for-26) with two home runs and four RBIs in his last 10 games.

Johnson said he thinks Tracy - who was emotional after learning today that he’d made the Nats’ 25-man roster - has been the team’s most improved player this spring.

“His reaction times are quicker,” Johnson said. “He’s studying the ball. His bat was a little slow early and his timing was off. He was using prevent stances. But now he looks good, he looks ready.”

Danny Espinosa hit his second homer in his last two games today, and the second baseman nearly helped turn a spectacular double play in the seventh inning when he dove to his right to bring in a hard-hit grounder and flipped the ball to Ian Desmond, who was covering second.

Desmond bent down to snatch the ball with his bare hand, tagged second and then gunned the ball to first, just a split-second too late to turn two.

Still a heck of a play by the Nats’ middle infielders.

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