With the All-Star break fast approaching, Roger Bernadina still has a decision to make: He could take a few days to relax, like he'd originally been planning to do, or he could accompany Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, his countryman and teammate from the 2004 Dutch National Team, to Phoenix for the All-Star Game.
Jurrjens was selected to the National League team, and could wind up starting Tuesday. He and Bernadina have become close friends since playing together internationally, and Jurrjens invited him as a guest. Bernadina has to make a decision by tomorrow about what he plans to do.
His path between spending future All-Star breaks at home and winding up on one of those teams himself is less defined; Bernadina has all the tools to become a fixture in the majors, but he's 27 and his development curve has been jarred with injuries and stretches of inconsistency. He's getting every chance to prove himself as a center fielder and leadoff hitter now, taking an opportunity to fill two of the Nationals' biggest needs, but like with his travel plans this week, it remains to be seen which direction Bernadina will go.
"He's a little free swinger," manager Davey Johnson said. "I'd like him to be a little more selective. The first time up (last night) with runners in scoring position, he swung at three balls. The next time up, he took them. He came to me yesterday and said, 'Skip, I want to work on my jumps (on fly balls).' I said, 'That's good. Every day, you're going to do five or 10 minutes of working on your jumps in BP.' I'm waiting to see if he can do all those things."
Bernadina has shown signs of life in the last week, posting a .364 on-base percentage in his last seven games. He's gotten on base four times in 10 plate appearances the last two games, bunting his way on base for a single on Tuesday night. He said he's trying to be more selective in his first at-bat of the game, when he's leading off, but taking his normal approach after that. Still, there are at least a few signs he's starting to develop some mental cues to be choosier at the plate.
"On my walk (in the second inning on Tuesday), that was a pitch I could hit," Bernadina said. "But I got on base, and that's what my job is - to get on base and have those guys drive me in."
His athleticism has been on display all season, both at the plate and in the field, but his routes to fly balls aren't always crisp, and he's found some trouble when he hasn't been decisive enough - like on Monday, when he and Jayson Werth let an easy fly ball fall between them after Bernadina was late getting to the ball.
Still, Johnson talked on Thursday about how the Nationals' chief goal is to develop players, and if that's done properly, wins will be a byproduct. And in a spot where the Nationals have been searching for a permanent answer for years, Bernadina will get his shot to prove he's the guy.
"There's a lot of potential," Johnson said. "He's going to answer those questions as long as I give him a chance to answer them."