Brad Bergesen has been sent down to Triple-A Norfolk, but I won’t be calling it a failure on his part and I won’t be calling him a lost cause. After a few discouraging outings in Norfolk he had just been starting to get his stuff together, tying two solid starts and starting to regain the form that made him a surprise Rookie of the Year candidate until Billy Butler’s fateful line drive. Suddenly he was thrust back in the majors, and turned out not to be ready for it. Nolan Reimold, too, was a Rookie of the Year candidate, playing injured for much of the latter half of the 2009 season en route to a .279 average with 15 home runs in just 104 games. Reimold’s time in Norfolk has been less encouraging, and some are starting to wonder whether he was ever as good as his 2009 season would indicate.
For Bergesen, Triple-A is the best place for him right now. Watching him pitch in the minors I saw a pitcher who had control of 4 average to above average pitches, and could induce a ground ball on any of them, especially with his devastating sinker. He was not going to blow anyone away- in fact, if he lost any of his control or confidence in any of his 4 pitches, he was going to get shelled. Unfortunately, that’s what happened during his rehab. He lost something in his delivery that I, not being a pitching coach, can’t exactly discern. Having to readjust after surgery and hurrying to get back in time for spring training left Bergesen unable to rediscover his mechanics from 2009.
The worst decision might have been trying to move Bergesen into the bullpen, where he had never pitched before and wasn’t going to get the reps he needed to find his delivery. The bullpen is a place for pitchers who can go through a few batters but struggle the longer they are in games. Brad is a pitcher who adjusts to hitters, is a cerebral pitcher capable of lasting 7 innings on a regular basis when he has his stuff together. For a player who needs to rediscover his delivery, getting 1 or 2 innings every 6 days isn’t going to help him get the reps he needs. With available alternatives ready in the Norfolk bullpen, there is no reason why Bergesen should stay at Triple-A, and not just until he gets a couple of good starts together. Let him get into a real rhythm before he is forced back up- if Arrieta stays with the club, he could get that opportunity. Besides, it’s not like he is needed for a playoff push.
Nolan Reimold is another story for me. He may still be feeling lingering effects of his torn Achilles tendon, which he attempted to play on and was expected to be out much longer than he was. However, at this point the problem could be more in his head than in his ankle. Reimold has not seen a bump in his batting numbers regardless of where he is hitting, with a .172 average in Norfolk. His bat isn’t exactly heating up, either, with a paltry .212 average in his last 10 games. He is capable of hitting well- he was a great hitter throughout his time in the minors up until this season, and appears to be pressing at the plate to a degree I haven’t seen before.
However, this has led to many (possibly rightly) wondering whether Reimold is the left-fielder of the future that he was made out to be during the 2009 season. He has always been an average at best outfielder, and his frame (6’4”) could be well-suited for 1st base. As such, he has been getting some reps defensively at first base, though it is a crowded field in Norfolk with Brandon Snyder and Michael Aubrey already getting opportunities there. If Felix Pie comes back healthy next season and hits the way he did before he went down, Nolan could fall entirely out of the Orioles’ plans.
But given the recent history of young Orioles players trying to come back from injuries, that is far less than a guarantee.