Byline: Ben Goessling, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Rick Eckstein doesn't recall the time, place or location, but he remembers exactly what Roger Bernadina said to him.
Bernadina had become one of the pet projects for the Washington Nationals' hitting coach ever since last July 11, when a swing that was too long cut short the outfielder's first trip to the major leagues.
Bernadina had been hitting over .300 at Class AA Harrisburg, but his swing quickly found the Peter Principle in the major leagues - all the techniques he had used to mangle minor league pitching suddenly hit their level of incompetence against big league breaking balls.
So Eckstein, then the hitting coach for Class AAA Columbus, put Bernadina through drills, had him watch video - anything to get idea of a shorter swing into his head. And one night, after Bernadina returned to the dugout having missed a pitch he could have stung, he said to Eckstein, Man, I can feel it.
He could feel the length in his swing, Eckstein said. Great - once you can feel it, then you can start to address adjusting it. For me, in watching him and talking with him, that was the breakthrough moment. You can sit there and talk to a hitter about some of the issues he needs to consider, but unless he's truly feeling them and understanding them, the adjustment period might take a little longer.
Bernadina returned to the majors Sept. 1 and hit .306 in 16 games. An 0-for-5 day Saturday dropped his average to .250 this spring, but he's improved his left-handed swing enough to be an outside candidate for a roster spot in the Nationals' crowded outfield.
The work seems to have paid off.
[Staying short] was the thing that kept me down whenever I was in the big leagues, Bernadina said. I've been working on it in the offseason. Right now, it works pretty good.
The swing is the only question Washington has had aboutthe 24-year-old. …