- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2013

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As Roger Bernadina made his way into the visitors’ dugout at Champion Stadium on Thursday afternoon, the manager who hadn’t seen him in 3 1/2 weeks stopped his conversation midsentence when he spotted him.

“Good to see ya,” Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson shouted at the outfielder who had been playing in the World Baseball Classic with the Netherlands until the team was eliminated in the semifinal round Monday.

“I’m proud of you guys,” Johnson told Bernadina, his decibel level rising. “Now you’re ready for prime time with the Nats, baby.”

Bernadina laughed. He was still reacclimating himself to the Nationals and the Grapefruit League. His body had no idea what time zone it was in, having gone from Taiwan to Tokyo to Phoenix to San Francisco and back to Florida. He’d barely slept more than three hours the past few nights.

“I feel like I’ve been gone for months,” he said.

But Bernadina spoke glowingly of his time in the WBC. The best moment of the tournament for him was when the Dutch team beat Cuba to advance to the final round, even though he didn’t play in that game.

“A lot of guys were hurt,” Bernadina said. “But we fought all the way to the end. That was great.”

A bruise on his right wrist, the product of getting hit by a pitch March 10, kept him out of that game and the next. But Thursday, Bernadina said he was fine.

He did not play again until Monday’s semifinal, and got 22 at-bats over the course of the tournament. Still, he has no doubt he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

“It was intense,” Bernadina said. “The fans were really into it and it was great. … I’m pretty close. I feel like a couple days and I’m ready to go. The games were different [than spring training], but I’m ready.”

Bernadina will start in center field Friday, Johnson said, and allow the Nationals to judge for themselves where he’s at in his preparation for the season.

“We’re finally pretty much full-strength,” Johnson said. “Jayson Werth, [Denard Span] and [Bryce Harper] are probably happy to have him back more than anybody else here.”

Soriano has root canal

Nationals closer Rafael Soriano had a root canal Thursday afternoon in Florida to take care of a potentially infected tooth, but Johnson still expects him to make his scheduled appearance Friday in Viera.

“I’ve had a few of those and they’re not much fun,” Johnson said. “I just hope he got enough Novocaine so it didn’t hurt too bad. … I’m sure he’s probably fine.”

Story Continues →