DALLAS -- A year ago at this time, Roger Bernadina appeared to figure into the Nationals' plans, both in the short- and long-term. The talented-but-inconsistent outfielder was at worst going to serve as part of a platoon in left field with Michael Morse and perhaps wind up as the everyday center fielder.
One year later, Bernadina's future with the Nationals looks murky. He's still on the 40-man roster and he's still under team control at a minimum salary level -- he just barely missed qualifying for "Super 2" arbitration status -- but no one's talking about him as a potential starter in left or center fields. And he's not really being discussed much as an option off the bench, with Davey Johnson pushing for more offensively minded players in that role than athletic, defensive specialists.
So why is Bernadina still on the roster? Because he remains a good insurance policy for the Nationals in case something else happens. If they fail to land a starting center fielder, it would be nice to have Bernadina available. If Adam LaRoche's shoulder isn't healed and Morse has to move back to first base, you'd like to still have Bernadina as an option in left field.
The problem is that the Nationals can't just hang onto Bernadina forever as a fallback plan. He's going to be out of options in 2012, so if he doesn't make the roster out of spring training, he can't be sent to Class AAA Syracuse without first passing through waivers.
It makes for an awkward situation. Sources close to Bernadina say he's frustrated and wonder if he'd prefer to just have the opportunity to catch on with another organization. At the same time, this is the only organization that has ever employed him (he signed with the Expos in 2001 at age 16).
So for now, it appears Bernadina will be stuck in a state of limbo, knowing he'll be in Viera come February but unsure where he'll be by the time Opening Day arrives.