- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

Center fielder Roger Bernadina’s call-up to the major leagues last month ended with the obvious conclusion the 24-year-old needed to refine his swing to last in the major leagues. The Washington Nationals prospect appears to be on the way to doing that.

Bernadina, who hit .125 in 10 games with the Nationals, is batting .362 at Class AAA Columbus since he was optioned there on July 11. He has one homer and eight RBI in that span.

His long swing made him susceptible to major league pitchers who are much more effective at changing speeds than minor leaguers, and Nationals hitting coach Lenny Harris had Bernadina working on shortening his swing to square up to the ball quicker and produce the kind of punchy line drives Washington would like to see from him in the leadoff spot.

“He was brought up for a specific purpose. We had an injury, let’s get him. We know he’s not quite ready, but give him a little bit of a taste of it so he can see, ‘OK, last time I kind of panicked, I got too long [with my swing],’” said Bob Boone, Nationals vice president of player development. “It’s all about learning yourself, so you can make those adjustments at this level.”

That performance has helped calm some of the worries about Bernadina, who hadn’t played above Class AA before his June 28 call-up.

Boone said Bernadina’s demotion was as much about restoring his confidence as it was about giving him time to make technical adjustments.

“He was hitting like crazy in Double A. He comes up here, struggles, and the impression is, ‘He can’t do it, send him back,’” Boone said. “You’ve got to really make sure they don’t fall off the radar.”

Slow negotiations with Crow

General manager Jim Bowden said Wednesday that the Nationals have not made any progress in negotiations with Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow, the team’s first-round pick in the June draft.

Asked whether he thinks the Nationals will have Crow signed by the Aug. 15 deadline for teams to sign their draft picks, Bowden said, “[I] don’t know that. We’re working hard trying to sign all the guys that are unsigned.”

Four of the Nationals’ top five picks remain unsigned, tying them with the Giants for the most unsigned top-five picks in baseball. On July 17, the team signed second-round pick Destin Hood to a $1.1 million bonus that will be paid over five years.

Atilano honored

Luis Atilano, a right-handed pitcher at Class A Potomac, was picked by MiLB.com as the Carolina League pitcher of the week for July 21-27.

In both of his starts last week, he went five innings, allowing only one hit in each.

Fall league set

The Nationals have been assigned to the Peoria Saguaros for October’s Arizona Fall League.

Minor leaguers from the White Sox, Mets, Cardinals and Padres will also be on the team. Columbus hitting coach Rick Eckstein will be a coach on the team, which begins play Oct. 7.

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