Johnson trying to find time for surplus of outfielders

Johnson trying to find time for surplus of outfielders

PHOENIX -- Bryce Harper's day off on Thursday won't become a common occurrence, but Nationals manager Davey Johnson might have reason to give him a few more breathers the rest of the season.

Harper, batting .176/.276/.265 since the All-Star break, sat out the series finale, with the Nats starting Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth in the outfield. Johnson has a surplus of outfielders with those three, Harper and Tyler Moore, who hit well this season before getting shifted into a more uncertain role when Washington kept him on the active roster upon Werth's return. Johnson said he would likely only sit Harper against a particularly tough left-handed starting pitcher, however.

"Now that Jayson's able to play a little bit more, I may pick my spots and give [Harper] a breather -- not so much for him, but maybe to get a Tyler Moore in there, which I have now that Jayson Werth is back," Johnson said. "The only reason is because that's what I would do for all 25 guys on the roster, to keep them sharp."

Bernadina has been particularly deserving of more playing time. Johnson said Friday that the outfielder made noticeable adjustments in Spring Training, shortening his stride and generally playing smarter, and it's paid off. Bernadina is batting .287/.373/.388 this season and .343/.429/.388 since the All-Star break.

"He's playing real smart, and he's playing great defensively, offensively. He's done well. He's been outstanding," Johnson said. "I've had a lot of guys miss a lot of time, so as long as they're healthy, I'll still kind of plug him in like I would a fourth outfielder -- double switch with him, pinch hit with him. He's been doing a heck of a job."