Versatility A Plus For Abernathy

Brent Abernathy is now in his second month with the Nationals organization following an early April trade.  Washington and his current team, the Clippers, hope to benefit from the Georgia native's combination of experience, versatility, and reliability at the plate.

Most Nationals fans were aware of the trade that brought outfielder Ryan Langerhans to the club, but one trade that somewhat flew under the radar was the acquisition of Brent Abernathy from Philadelphia on April 11.  Based on Abernathy's past success at the major and minor league levels, Washington certainly expects the move to pay dividends in the future.  Abernathy talked on Sunday about his familiarity with being traded and his optimism toward the opportunity to play for the Nationals organization.

"It wasn't the first time I'd been traded.  Usually, you feel pretty confident when you're being traded that the team you're going to wants you, for one reason or another," Abernathy told  "Most of the time, it's a positive thing."

The versatility Abernathy brings to a ball club has already been evident this season for the Clippers.  Abernathy has seen time at first base, second base, third base, designated hitter and even an inning at pitcher so far this season.  Not only has this versatility helped alleviate lineup issues for Clippers manager John Stearns, but it also has made it easier for Abernathy to market himself to big-league teams.

"I enjoy playing anywhere.  I've played a lot of outfield the last two or three years too. I think the best way to get back to the big leagues is to be versatile, instead of limiting yourself to one position," Abernathy said. "Sometimes the season can get long and tiring, but if you're playing different positions, it kind of gives you a different outlook from day to day."

Abernathy's assets are not simply limited to his usefulness on defense.  Offensively, he has consistently hit near .300 during his nine years in the minors, and these stats have been the reason three major league squads—Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Minnesota—have taken a chance on him in the past. 

When asked about his greatest strengths, Abernathy elaborated on the variety of ways he can contribute.  "It's versatility combined with, offensively, helping us as a team score runs.  Whether it's laying down a bunt, hit and run, hitting behind a guy, getting on base, whatever it is.  That's always been my strength and it will be until the day I retire," Abernathy said.

As of right now, Abernathy is dissatisfied with the .223 average he has in 34 games with Columbus and Ottawa this season.  Nevertheless, there was still a great deal of maturity and confidence in his tone when he talked of his recent struggles, and he expects to turn things around soon.

"I have to swing the bat better than I have, plain and simple.  I've hit .300 my whole life, and I just haven't found a groove yet this season. That's what it boils down to," Abernathy said. "I've been around; I know what I've got to do."

In addition, Abernathy is fully aware of the fact that he still has the bulk of the season ahead of him.  He knows that there is plenty of time to improve and possibly work his way into a Nationals uniform.

"I've been there before. I've scuffled for a month and a half in previous seasons, especially to start the year," Abernathy said.  "I know it's a long season and, as few of at-bats as we have now, all it takes is a good three or four games and everything's alright."

On May 15, Abernathy received quite a surprise when he was called on to pitch the ninth inning in a 15-2 loss to Charlotte.  It was his first career pitching appearance.  Although Abernathy said that his future pitching career looks awfully bleak, he said that these occurrences are sometimes common in the minors and he was upbeat about helping the team in any way possible.

"It happens and we picked up an inning for the bullpen.  Hopefully it helped us. I guess in the long run, that's all that matters."

It is no secret that the Clippers have started to turn things around in the past few weeks, and Abernathy projects a good outlook for the rest of the season.  With a win Sunday, the Clippers moved into a tie for second in the International League's West Division.  Abernathy alluded to the injuries of Joel Hanrahan and Emiliano Fruto as key losses for the Clippers, but he expects the team to put together a season that Clippers fans and the Washington organization can be proud of.

"We're going to continue to play hard.  It's been kind of a rough season so far, especially for the pitchers. There's been a merry-go-round going on.  So many guys have been getting hurt up there, but we've been battling and working our way through it," Abernathy said.  "We're right around .500 and all it takes, again, is one good week or a few good games in a row and the outlook looks a lot different. It's still early—we'll be fine."

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