- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

Whenever Rogearvin Bernadina’s name is mentioned, prospect phrases like “five-tool talent” and “tremendous ceiling” are soon to follow. Bernadina is a tremendous athlete who tantalizes scouts with flashes of brilliance.

The problem is it’s just flashes. Tall and lanky, Bernadina is a center fielder with outstanding range and a strong arm. With his speed and raw power, Bernadina compares favorably to another member of the Nationals’ organization — recently acquired big league outfielder Preston Wilson.

“You hate to label guys like that. You just want to let them go out and play,” Randy Knorr, manager of Savannah in the low-Class A South Atlantic League, said of Bernadina. “He’s an outstanding outfielder — probably one of the best in the league. He’s got a great arm and to play center field and have an arm like that — you just don’t find that very often. He runs like nobody else. We’re just waiting on his hitting. He’s starting to figure it out. He’s starting to come around and we just need to be patient with him. He’s going to be something special.”

Bernadina was signed by Montreal out of the Netherlands in 2001. He was one of the last players signed by Fred Ferreira before Ferreira became the director of International Operations for the Florida Marlins. Ferreira also was responsible for signing Vladimir Guerrero.

“Bernie,” as his teammates call him, is spending his third season with Savannah. Three years at one stop might be a sign of someone whose career has stalled out, but Bernadina is still only 21 years old.

“He’s a young kid and he comes from an area that doesn’t play a lot of baseball so we think he’s just catching up,” Knorr said. “It’s great to watch him start to get it.”

Bernadina, who was attending a baseball academy in the Netherlands when the Expos signed him, was born in Curacao — part of the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean. His family moved to Europe when he was 10.

“It was a different world,” Bernadina said. “Baseball is much bigger in Curacao than in Holland.”

Through Sunday, Bernadina was hitting .246 with nine homers and 27 stolen bases for the Sand Gnats. His batting average is a bit misleading. An awful May (18-for-96) and rough start in June had Bernadina’s average at .209 on June 21. Since then, he has hit .318 (35-for-110).

“I started kind of slow, but the second half has been great,” Bernadina said. “I’m seeing the ball well. I started getting more aggressive and finding the pitch I wanted to hit. I’ve been sitting on my pitch and been looking for it and that worked.”

While Bernadina’s power/speed combination in center field compares favorably to Wilson, so do his low batting averages and penchant for strikeouts. Bernadina hit .237 and .238 the past two seasons at Savannah, and probably will never be mistaken for a .300 hitter.

Before this season, Bernadina struck out (191) nearly twice as often as he walked (98). There is hope that he is improving his plate discipline, however. While his average remains down, Bernadina’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is far better (67 strikeouts and 59 walks in 94 games). He walked 60 times last season.

Wilson also played in the South Atlantic League as a 20- and 21-year old. He hit .228 and .269 with more power (34 homers in two years) but less plate discipline (249 strikeouts and only 39 walks). He was a first-round draft pick in 1992 who didn’t emerge as an everyday player in the majors until 1999.

The Nationals might need to express similar patience with Bernadina, but the reward could be worth it.

“He just needs at-bats, I honestly believe that,” Knorr said. “I don’t think you can pinpoint it. You get him as many at-bats as possible and hope he gets comfortable with what he’s doing. I think in the past a lot of people have thrown a lot of things at him. We want to take a different approach and just put him out there and let him get experience.”

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