There always seems to be a certain degree of uneasiness that arises when Orioles fans talk about the topic of pitching. The starting rotation has been one of the Orioles Achilles heels for the better part of a decade and has been a major contributor of their 11 consecutive losing seasons.
But the organization is trying to fix that flaw by slowly incorporating their slew of young and talented pitching prospects into the big leagues, which includes recent call-up and 2008 Orioles minor league pitcher of the year, Brad Bergesen.
Image Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun
The 23-year-old right-hander earned the chance to start for the O’s after Alfredo Simon was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury. But if the idea of calling up Bergesen was to test the youngster against some of the best major league hitters right off the bat, the O’s sure picked the right lineups to throw at him.
His first start was against the power-filled lineup of the Chicago White Sox and he didn’t disappoint. He earned his first major-league win after going 5.2 innings and giving up only one earned run on four hits.
However, his second start was not as glamorous. Bergesen was roughed up for 10 hits and five runs, including three homers, against another potent lineup in the Texas Rangers.
Bergesen’s most recent start was against the hot-hitting Blue Jays where he struggled early but finished strong, allowing six hits in six innings along with the three earned runs, all in the second inning.
Whenever a pitcher is called up from the minors, it’s expected that he will be somewhat inconsistent with his command and will make some bad pitches, just as Bergesen did. The one thing he didn’t do, though, is show any signs of nervousness. Simply put, this guy has the look and feel of someone who has been there before.
Another positive aspect of Bergesen’s first three big league outings is that out of the 47 batters he has retired, 35 of them have been by way of the ground ball. If you combine that with the fact that he has only surrendered six walks in the 15-plus innings, he is giving his offense a chance to win the game by not giving up easy runs.
We all know that the Orioles offense has enough firepower to win them some games. But they just can’t fill the holes in their pitching staff with the right guys. It seems like they always have guys who have potential, but none of them can ever quite live up to what they did in the minors. Hopefully Bergesen is able to change that trend this season and becomes a staple in a starting rotation that needs a facelift very badly.
The Orioles have four other pitchers that are among the top 50 in the minor league ranks including Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and Brandon Erbe. If Bergesen turns out to be a stud, we could see a trend of young pitchers being called up to try and change things up in the O’s rotation.
This is similar to what the Pittsburgh Pirates have been doing with starters Paul Maholm, Zach Duke and Ian Snell over the past few years. They all came up in the Pirates farm system and have worked through their kinks to become a very solid starting staff that boasts a major-league best 3.42 ERA after finishing with a 5.08 mark last season.
The Orioles should take a page out of the Pirates book because if they can put together a solid starting staff, they have the bats to become a team that could be playing into late October.
It’s wishful thinking, I know, but the O’s aren’t that far away from being in the mix. Hopefully Bergesen will be the start of something great for the O’s and they will be able to gain some respect back from the rest of the league.