Roger Bernadina gets a start against a left-handed pitcher (J.A. Happ) tonight partially out of necessity; with Nyjer Morgan's suspension, the Nationals don't have enough right-handed outfielders among their usual suspects to fill out a lineup that doesn't include Bernadina. Intentional or not, though, it's another step toward Bernadina being an everyday player.
If the 26-year-old is to become one, he'll have to face lefties eventually. He's only logged 49 appearances against them this season, and has faced a lefty starter in just 20 games this year. Bernadina has actually hit them better than he has righties this year, but manager Jim Riggleman didn't have a place to put Bernadina against lefties early this year if he wanted to get Michael Morse in the lineup.
As he nears the conclusion of his first year in the majors, though, the additional work isn't necessarily an indicator that Bernadina is guaranteed to be one of the Nationals' starting outfielders next year. Riggleman said the outfielder is "better than what he's shown this year," when he's batting .253 with 10 homers and 15 steals, but still classified Bernadina as a player the Nationals need to decide on for next year.
"I think his numbers indicate there's some parts of his game that you go, 'We're not going to find anybody that can do more than him,' in terms of baserunning and defense," Riggleman said. "The offensive numbers are OK. I don't know that you're going to find anybody that's going to do more. Plus, there is the thought that there is more in there. Even though you may not be totally convinced, you still feel like he's getting better. I think we would lean at this time toward thinking we could count on him to be a guy that could go out and get 400 at-bats. But to get 550 or 600, you've got to play against the lefties also, so that's where we're not sure yet."
Bernadina has slumped in the second half of the season, hitting .226 after taking a .282 average into the All-Star break. There's some talk of him playing center field next year, but he'd help his case if he can pull himself up in the last two weeks of the season.
"The clock is ticking," Riggleman said. "He's had to show us that he's a player this year. He has shown us that. Is there more in there? Certainly. ... He's a guy that we're trying to get as much information as we can, because we've got to see about him for next year. Do we anoint him as one of our three outfielders, or do we have to look further?"