Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Roger Bernadina has "superstar potential," according to Jim Riggleman.
Three guys are in the mix (Roger Bernadina, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel) and each offers some particular skill that should be able to help this team. But can the Nationals afford to carry all three on their 25-man roster, especially with Bernadina and Ankiel possessing similar games?
"We're looking at that real close," Jim Riggleman said this morning. "That affects some other spots. That affects [Matt] Stairs. That affects [Laynce] Nix. All those guys are good players with a lot of major-league experience. We've got to be a little creative if we're going to keep them all, but they're all good players. We're a long way from sorting that out."
The Nationals remain high on Bernadina, whose combination of speed, defense and power makes him an intriguing long-term possibility. Bernadina, though, hasn't quite proven himself at this level yet.
"We're still searching there to see exactly what we have," Riggleman said. "Roger has got superstar potential, but he's kind of played ... like an average major-league ballplayer. Which is very flattering. There's not many people that can be an average major-league ballplayer. But we feel like there's more in there. We're waiting on him to take that next step."
Ankiel, on the other hand, has significant experience, having compiled 55 homers and 181 RBI over 1,393 big-league plate appearances. His experience could be an advantage, but at the same time it also makes him a better alternative as a pinch-hitter off the bench.
Morse, as the only right-handed hitter of the trio, seems a lock to make it as part of the left-field platoon.
So what do the Nationals' do? Well, they could keep all three on the roster, though it may come at the expense of an extra infielder like Alberto Gonzalez or Alex Cora or a pinch-hitting specialist like Stairs.
Bernadina does have an option left, so he could be sent to Class AAA Syracuse without having to pass through waivers.
And, of course, there is another possibility: If the Nationals decide Nyjer Morgan isn't going to be their center fielder, they could drop him and then use either Ankiel or Bernadina in center. That doesn't sound like the organization's preferred course of action, but Riggleman sidestepped the question a bit this morning when asked if left field is the only starting position on the field up for grabs this spring.
"If we've got a game tomorrow, Nyjer's out center fielder," the manager said. "Nyjer's been working really hard. He and Rick Eckstein seem to really be clicking and making a couple adjustments. So we're counting on Nyjer to be our center fielder. I guess that's the long version of [saying] you're right: Left field is pretty much where we're competing, other than maybe a pitching spot somewhere."