Bernadina striving for role with Reds

Outfielder could provide another strong left-handed bat off the bench.

Cincinnati Reds Roger Bernadina poses for a picture during the team's photo day before spring training baseball workouts Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Goodyear, Ariz.  

Gregory Bull / AP Photo

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Roger Bernadina was born in Curacao, The Netherlands Antibes, and still lives there, but it is not appropriate to call him, "The Little Dutch Boy."

He is a big man at 6-foot-2 and 210 pound. He is soft-spoken, barely talks above a whisper, making him the poster boy for Teddy Roosevelt's famous quote, "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

The 29-year-old outfielder is in the Cincinnati Reds spring training camp as a free agent minor-league signee, but was invited to the big league camp.

And so far he is making the best and the most of it, trying to impress manager Bryan Price and general manager Walt Jocketty enough to wriggle his way onto the Opening Day roster.

Price has noticed. After a productive 2012 season with the Washington Nations, mostly off the bench, Bernadina nearly disappeared from the face of the baseball earth last year.

In 2012 he hit .291 in 129 games, but with only 261 plate appearances and had a .372 on-base average. He began last season with the Nationals and was hitting only .178 in 162 at-bats and was released. The Philadelphia Phillies signed him and he hit .187 in 83 plate appearances and then became a free agent.

"When you look at his numbers, he was really a prolific hitter in the minors at the high levels, Double-A and Triple-A," said Price. "He is a real nice player and there were times in Washington when I surprised he didn't play more."

His full name is Rogerarvin Argelo Bernadina, "Just call me Roger," and he was signed in 2000 by the Montreal Expos when he was 17. It took him eight years to get to the majors and by then the Expos had moved to Washington.

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"We're just getting to know him because you always know more about your own players than somebody else's," said Price. "We were always impressed with him, I sure was, because he has good strike zone discipline, he is a tough out, puts the ball in play, runs the bases, is a plus defender. He can bunt. He does a lot of things well.

"So I don't know why he had the setback last year, why it was more of a struggle," said Price. "Maybe it was playing time, maybe there was an injury involved, although I don't know of any."

Price, though, is judging him on what he sees right now and says, "I do know he has been one of the most impressive players we've had in camp up to this point."

It wasn't an injury. It was playing time.

"Naw, I wasn't hurt," he said. "I came to spring training last year late after playing in the World Baseball Classic (for The Netherlands) and I never really got into any groove. I was searching for my swing the entire season.

"It's hard, too, coming off the bench when you've been a starter all your life," he said. "But you have to do whatever you have to do."

And Bernadina knows that if he sticks with the Reds it will be as a left-handed bat off the bench and a fifth outfielder behind Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick, Billy Hamilton and Chris Heisey.

And that's fine with him.

"Things happen for a reason and I'm here now and I plan to make the best of it," said Bernadina. "We'll see how things go. Whatever they want, I'll try to do my part to help the team win."

Although he was a late signee this spring -- just two weeks before camp opened -- he said he had some other options, but chose the Reds.

"This is a good team and they were always tough to play against," he said. "Now I'm part of it and I'll do whatever it is they want, make the best out of it. This team was my best option, they wanted me, so I told my agent, 'Get me on the Reds.'"