Bernadina tightens hold on RF job

The Nationals are hitting Roger Bernadina second today, another vote of confidence for the 26-year-old in a season that’s been full of them. Bernadina started the year in the minors, was called up for one game in April and again at the end of the month.

And slowly, Bernadina began to grab hold of a spot where the Nationals had been planning to platoon most of the year. At the end of June, he appears to have it mostly to himself. The Nationals will still use Michael Morse against lefties, but Bernadina has mostly squeezed out Morse, who beat him out for a roster spot at the beginning of the season.

Manager Jim Riggleman is committed to giving Bernadina a long look in right field, and so far, he’s made the most of it.

He’s hitting .301/.356/.466 with four homers and 20 RBI in his last 43 games. Bernadina has started 38 of those. Projected over 162 games, with Bernadina starting 142 of them, he’d win up with 15 homers and 75 RBI, along with 15 steals. Those aren’t overwhelming power numbers, but combined with his speed and defense, they’re good enough to make Riggleman think he can be a fixture in right.

“I think Bernie’s really taken advantage of the opportunity,” Riggleman said. “He just really has improved in every aspect of his game - his defense, his at-bats, his baserunning. I think he’s motivated to hold onto something there that’s been put in front of him. We’re just really pleased with it, because he’s one of the most athletic guys we have on the field.”

Bernadina, who broke his ankle leaping for a ball last April 18, has shown as much range as ever in the outfield. And at the plate, he’s driving the ball more than he has in the past. After showing up to camp looking noticeably stronger than past years, Bernadina has Riggleman believing he can be an effective No. 6 hitter.

“The thing about it is, when he hits them, they seem to go a long way, which is an indication there’s a lot there,” Riggleman said. “At his age, it’s probably about the time it’s going to start coming. It’s the last thing that happens for most players, is the power coming. I don’t know that it’s going to be in (homer) numbers in the twenties, and all that, but down the road, I think there’s potential for that.”