Rounding Out The Roles

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There will be days like this, in 2012. Days when Stephen Strasburg is not on the mound, when the middle of the lineup, the brand name stars, do not carry the offense. And while it may not feel this way, these games will count just as much as the ones that get all the attention. If the Nationals are to make this season a successful one, they’ll have to win these games too, just as they did on Monday, when John Lannan and Roger Bernadina led the way in a 7-4 victory over the Astros in Viera.

As manager Davey Johnson is still trying to figure out his final outfield roster for Opening Day, Bernadina is making a strong late push for more playing time. After a fairly quiet spring, “The Shark” has flipped the switch over the last two games, combining to go 5-for-6 with a walk, two home runs and six RBI. A suddenly dialed-in Bernadina could go a long way in extending the depth of the lineup with Michael Morse still in question for Opening Day.

MLB Network was on hand for Washington's 7-4 win over Houston on Monday.

Bernadina thanks hitting coach Rick Eckstein for helping him with an adjustment that he credits with the difference in his performance.

“I’ve been working on my direction towards the field,” Bernadina explained after thumping a two-run shot to deep right-center in his final at-bat Monday. “For me, it’s just the key. When I’m coming off, pulling off pitches, I have no chance at breaking balls, off-speed pitches.”

It’s not just the timing of his swing that is on track right now. He couldn’t have picked a better time to start hitting, with just over a week left before the beginning of the regular season.

“It’s always good to get going at the end (of Spring Training),” he admitted. “Definitely.”

As for one of the other most talked-about competitions in camp, the fifth starter role is officially Lannan’s. Johnson made the announcement even before Lannan earned his second win of the spring with five solid innings of work, over which he allowed a couple runs while fanning five. He will give the Nationals a second lefty – along with Gio Gonzalez – to complement righties Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson. The decision also means Ross Detwiler, who followed Lannan’s start on Monday, will come of out the bullpen as the swing-man in April.

We also got our first look at a save situation since Johnson announced Drew Storen may not be ready in time for Opening Day. Henry Rodriguez, who earned a pair of saves last season, put the Astros away quietly to preserve the victory.

We’ll have details tomorrow on the par-3 challenge that a good number of the players and coaches are participating in Monday evening. For now, here are the team’s results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

vs. Miami – T, 1-1

vs. Detroit – L, 11-7

@ New York (NL) – L, 2-0

vs. Atlanta – L, 3-2 (10)

@ St. Louis – L, 9-0

@ Houston – L, 5-1

@ Baltimore – L, 12-3

vs. New York (NL) – W, 12-0

vs. Houston – W, 7-4

@ Miami – Tuesday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 7-13-3

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