Bernadina, Nats hope Classic play proves valuable
Outfielder gains experience in big games playing for upstart Netherlands team
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Roger Bernadina returned to Nationals camp this week after about a month away, with a few thousand travel miles to his name, and plenty of big-game experience the Nationals hope will serve them well this year.
Bernadina played six games in the outfield for the surprising Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic, helping to lead the Dutch to the championship round in San Francisco earlier this week.
Bernadina hit in the middle of the order, going 3-for-22 (.208) with a run and three RBIs. Alongside future stars like Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons and Texas' Jurickson Profar, and veteran Andruw Jones, Bernadina and the Dutch played in high-stakes games in Taiwan, Japan and, finally, San Francisco.
"It was intense," Bernadina said. "The fans were really into it and it was great. In Taiwan it was a different atmosphere than Tokyo. The fans were great and I loved it. I had a great time over there. ... I hadn't played in a game yet but to go right into that intense game, you definitely feel it."
Bernadina, who made his Major League debut with the Nats in 2008, was one of many Washington players to get their first taste of postseason action last year when the Nationals surprised baseball and ran away with the National League East title.
All they got was five games -- three in Washington -- before being eliminated by the Cardinals in the NLDS, but it could prove valuable should the Nationals reach the playoffs again. Same goes, the Nationals and Bernadina hope, for the World Baseball Classic experience.
"It's a big thing, any time you represent your country," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "There's more adrenaline, there's more pride. You want to be at your best because your home folks are watching. Whether it's the Netherlands or USA, or Japan or the Dominican, it's a thing about pride."
In addition to Bernadina, pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler both pitched in the tournament for Team USA, which did not reach the championship round. Outfielder Eury Perez was a late addition to the championship Dominican Republic team, and was reassigned to Minor League camp before he returned this week.
To have those players earn that kind of experience in February and March, Johnson said, could play well in September and October.
"You're playing against good competition, and a lot of people are watching," he said. "It's kinda like being in a pennant race or being in the playoffs. It has that same feeling."
Bernadina was back on the road with the Nats at Champion Field against the Braves on Thursday, and he was all smiles. He admitted he was a little discombobulated with the travel, but was happy to be back with teammates.
"It definitely felt like a long time," he said. "It was good to go out there and play for my country. But I feel like I've been gone for like months."