ATLANTA — The Nationals have already used four different players at the leadoff spot this season but the one slotted in there on Tuesday afternoon for the third straight game, center fielder Roger Bernadina, may be keeping himself on the team even after injured center fielder Rick Ankiel comes off the disabled list if he continues to fill that role well.
Bernadina, who is 2-for-8 with a walk and a stolen base since returning to the major league team on Saturday, would likely be the odd man out when Ankiel is healthy and ready to return to the lineup. But his ability to fill the leadoff role in a more traditional manner than any of the other players the Nationals have tried (Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Jerry Hairston Jr.) could force the Nationals to find a way to keep him on the roster.
“I certainly hope so,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “Because we could use him there at the top of the lineup. Like a lot of things, we’re kind of reactionary. The player’s in there, and we react to how they play. If they play to a certain level, they make that decision easy for us but if the results aren’t there then we have to say, well let’s try something else. He’s the most suited guy to leadoff for us so we really want that to work.
“Of (Espinosa, Desmond and Bernadina), Roger’s got a better chance to settle in there hitting leadoff for us so we’re going to take a look at that. Hopefully that’ll get us generating some offense there at the top. We’re looking for that point where (Jayson Werth) and (Ryan Zimmerman) and (Adam LaRoche) come up in that first inning with a guy or two on a little more.”
The Nationals would certainly like a little more production out of their entire lineup, but particularly the top. The Nationals, as a team, entered Tuesday with a .295 on-base percentage — but just a .234 and .275 OBP out of their No. 1 and No. 2 hitters, respectively.
That’s something they’d obviously like to improve.
“Whether he’s playing center or playing left,” Riggleman said. “we certainly would like to have him hitting leadoff.”