Non-roster invitee Bernadina makes impact in camp
Outfielder's chances of making club have improved with injury to Schumaker
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds non-roster outfielder Roger Bernadina has stood out for having one of the better camps of any player on the team this spring. But as can often happen, his chances of making the team improved because of someone else's misfortune.
The Reds already had five outfielders on the 40-man roster going into camp and Bernadina was originally viewed a potential long shot. On Friday, Skip Schumaker dislocated his left shoulder and could miss the first month of the season.
Bernadina, 29, had an out-clause in his Minor League contract back on March 18 and didn't exercise it to find a job elsewhere even though he had no guarantees of making the Reds' big league team.
"I'm taking it day-to-day and seeing what happens," Bernadina said the following day.
Bernadina has one more out-clause in his contract -- on Friday -- if he isn't on the 25-man big league roster. He's competing for one of the final 25-man roster spots with Jason Bourgeois and Kristopher Negron, among others.
In 20 games this spring, Bernadina is batting .417 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He's also notched two doubles and two triples. A muscular player, all of his hits have seemed to been scorched hard -- including the three-run homer to right field that he hit in the first inning Saturday vs. the Cubs.
Manager Bryan Price has been impressed by what he has seen all spring.
"There's no doubt about it. When he gets a good pitch to hit, he's not missing it," Price said. "This spring, he hasn't just been the athletic guy. He's been athletic but productive. Not just for power, but for speed. He's got some bunt hits. He's driven in some runs. He's drawn some walks. He's just been very efficient."
Bernadina, who spent six seasons with the Nationals from 2008-13, is two years removed from his best year when he batted .291/.372/.405 in 129 games, with five home runs, 25 RBIs and 15 steals in 2012.
Washington traded for Denard Span to play center field the following offseason and Bernadina became a bench player. He also played in the World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands before the season and struggled when he came back.
"Definitely, at the World Baseball Classic, you have to go and be intense," Bernadina said. "When I came back, I was searching for my swing and never got it. It's hard to do that on the bench. At Spring Training, you can work on things. At the end, you have to do what you have to do, and I didn't do it. It's in the past. I've moved on and I'm glad I have an opportunity to show [the Reds] I can play."
The Nationals released Bernadina on Aug. 19, and he was picked up by the Phillies two days later. Overall in 2013, he batted .181 with a .250 on-base percentage in 112 games.
"There were times when I saw him in Washington where I was surprised he didn't play more," Price said. "I was impressed with him, because he had good strike-zone discipline, he's a tough out. He put the ball in play and he is a plus defender. He did a lot of things well. He could bunt. I don't know why he had the setbacks last year, why it was a struggle for him."
Cincinnati signed Bernadina to a Minor League deal on Jan. 31, about two weeks before camp opened. He was pleased when the club reached out to him.
"It was the way they came over to me to be a backup player," Bernadina said. "I thought it was a good opportunity to make the best out of it and make the club."
Born in Curacao, Bernadina moved to Holland when he was 10 years old. He's fluent in four languages -- English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamentu -- a language also spoken in his native country. He still spends his offseasons living just outside of Amsterdam. Although he played in baseball-crazy Curacao, it was tougher as a kid after the move to Europe.
"It's harder, of course," Bernadina said. "It helps a little bit because in Curacao, baseball is big. My mom played softball. My dad played baseball. It was hard when I went to Holland. There wasn't much baseball but I had to get used to it."
When he was in Washington, Bernadina was tagged by fans with the nickname of "The Shark," because they respected the way he made often made tough diving catches. While he expects to leave the nickname behind him with his old club, he's hoping he can find a home with a new one in Cincinnati.
"It's a great atmosphere," he said. "You come to the ballpark with a smile on your face and that's good. Everybody is on the same page in wanting to win. That's all I want to do."