Back In The Running
VIERA, FLA. — Roger Bernadina didn't exactly come out swinging after rehabbing his fractured right ankle. Instead, he came back bunting.
The 25-year-old outfielder showed improvement on that side of his game in instructional league last fall. Speed and defense are his biggest assets, so a few more bunt hits could make a difference in his development.
"Even with two strikes, I'd be bunting," Bernadina said. "Probably if I had four ABs that day. I'd bunt three times. After I broke my ankle, I watched a lot of games and worked with (hitting coach Rick) Eckstein. He's the one who really helped me, and I really appreciate that."
Bernadina had not played since April, when he was injured while making a running catch against the center field wall at Nationals Park. In his only major league start of the season and third game after a callup from Triple-A Syracuse, he robbed the Marlins' Dan Uggla of an extra-base hit.
This spring, Bernadina was vying for a spot in an outfield that no longer included expected starting right fielder Elijah Dukes, who had been released. His competition includes Justin Maxwell, Willie Harris and Mike Morse.
A lefthanded hitter, Bernadina also played in 26 games with the Nationals in 2008. He has .213/.300/.263 numbers in 80 major league at-bats with five stolen bases in eight attempts.
Bernadina said he began feeling back to full strength in December while working out at home in Curacao. Missing nearly a whole season took its toll on him.
"The beginning was tough because I had never broken anything," Bernadina said. "But I was positive, and I knew I could come back and be where I needed to be."
Whether as a regular, an extra outfielder or an everyday player at Syracuse, Bernadina was eager to begin a new season.
"Wherever they have a spot for me, I'm ready to take it and ready to go," he said.
• Jesse English, 25, received a long look as a possible lefthander out of the bullpen. General Manager Mike Rizzo praised his deception, breaking pitch and fastball.
• Righthanded reliever Zech Zinicola is back in the organization. The Blue Jays took him in the Rule 5 draft this offseason but decided not to put him on their major league roster. Zinicola, 25, went 1-2, 5.33 over 53 innings last year between Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse.