Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brad Bergesen Shines in First Start

Brad Bergesen, in sharp contrast to most Orioles callups in recent years, came into his first start and did just what made him so successful in the minors. He threw strikes, he induced groundballs, and most of all he never lost his poise when things started to go awry. His line on last night's game, a 10-3 victory over the visiting Chicago White Sox, was: 5.2 ip, 3 runs (1 earned), 4 hits, 2 bb, 4k with a total of 95 pitches thrown (58 strikes). While these numbers don't leap out as dominant (well, maybe it does for fans watching Orioles pitching recently), it's more about how he got to that line than the numbers themselves.

Brad was nearly unflappable last night despite clearly being amped up for the game. The most significant at bat, in my opinion, happened in the first inning. Brad Bergesen, after requiring only 8 pitches to get the first two outs, got stuck in a 12-pitch battle with Carlos Quentin, the major league leader in home runs. He ended up retiring him with a down-and-away slider in which Quentin swung and missed. For Bergesen to continue throwing strikes and not give into a hitter like Quentin in his very first inning of major league ball spoke volumes about his poise and confidence. Another example was in the fourth inning, where with 1 out and a runner on first, Bergesen induced a sharp ground ball only to see Wigginton bobble the ball on what would have been a routine double play to get out of the jam. Despite eventually allowing those two runners to score, Bergesen did not lose his composure and still kept the ball low and threw strikes. Unlike many young players coming up, Bergesen did not try to overthrow his fastball and thus avoided leaving his fastball high in the strike zone. There were only a few times all night in which he made a truly bad pitch, only one hammered solidly for a double.

The negative from last night's game was in that even though he only walked two, Brad Bergesen did not have his usual exceptional control. He had far better control than most young pitchers in their debuts, but it was far from his normal; both of his walks were to leadoff batters, so while that does tell that he can adjust as the inning goes on, it is altogether unacceptable for a guy like Bergesen. He pitches to contact, and thus he cannot afford free baserunners to the opposition. Last year in AA Bowie he allowed only 1.5 walks per 9 ip, and thus this performance was far from his capability.

Brad Bergesen is exactly what the Orioles need right now in their rotation. He throws strikes, works fast, and keeps the ball on the ground (as evidenced by his 10-3 GO/AO last night). Moving forward he should be able to reach the 6th inning consistently and let his defense do most of the heavy lifting for him. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect Bergy (as he's affectionately nicknamed) to be the ace of this staff because he doesn't have that raw stuff to dominate regularly. However, I do believe that he's the sort of pitcher who will take heat off the bullpen and put this team in a position to win regularly. The Orioles don't need a guy who'll shut out the opposition every other night; they need someone who can give them consistent performances that keeps the O's in the game.

I'm glad that last summer I got his Prospect Report out. Because he's not a prospect anymore; he's a major leaguer.

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