Entering the 2011 season Orioles pitcher Brad Bergesen has a great deal to prove. Bergesen made quite a splash in 2009 posting a 7-5 record and a 3.43 ERA. His season was cut short by a line drive to the shin, but Bergesen had seemingly transformed himself from a fringe prospect to a fixture in the Orioles rotation. Expectations and pressure seem to have interesting effects on athletes. Feeling the pressure to pick up where he left off in 2009, Bergesen tried to do too much, too soon in his attempt to bounce back from a shoulder injury which occurred while filming a promotional commercial for MASN. Bergy tried to rush his arm into shape after missing a portion of the spring. He struggled to find his rhythm and found himself with a record of 3-9 and a 6.95 ERA after a start on July 26th.
Fortunately for Bergesen and the Orioles the story does not end there. Like Brian Matusz, Bergesen was able to right the ship. Whether or not his turn around can be attributed to the hiring of new manager Buck Showalter, is up for debate. What is clear is that Bergy found his groove and pitched more like the pitcher we watched in ’09. Over his final 12 starts in ’10 Bergesen pitched to a record of 5-3 and an ERA of 2.85. The question remains: What part of Bergesen’s performance in ’10 should we put more faith in as we try and figure out what we can expect from Bergy in 2011?
The Orioles seem to think that the good Bergesen is the real deal as they have all but penciled him into the rotation to start the season. But, so far, this spring Bergy has been more bad than good. While Bergesen is completely healthy, an obvious improvement over last year at this time, he still has been hit around and struggled to command his pitches. Over his last three spring starts Bergesen has surrendered 16 hits, 9 runs, and 5 walks over s span of nine and two-thirds innings. I am not a huge believer that spring performance is indicative of how a guy is going to perform when the season starts, but Bergesen’s struggles have to leave the door open for a guy like Zach Britton to take his spot in the rotation.
Ultimately, I believe that Bergesen will right himself this spring and be in the rotation on Opening Day, but what is the ceiling from him as a pitcher? At times he can be so pin-point with his command, that it leaves fans believing the Orioles have a poor mans Greg Maddux. But his stuff and low strike-out rate seem to indicate that he is at best a back of the rotation starter. I am not throwing that back of the rotation label around to criticize Bergesen. If he can be a consistent 12-15 game winner, with an ERA between 4 and 4.5 then the Orioles will have gotten more out of him than many scouts predicted. Where I think Bergesen can really help this team, aside from on the field, is by being a leader. He is an emotional, bright guy who says all the right things and works his tail off to perform at a high level. He also is tough and competitive