Brad Bergesen throws a fastball in the low 90s and he has only had one good year in the minor leagues.
And yet, so far the 23-year old Fairfield, CA native has done just that for the O's as a rookie. Bergesen has a 4-2 record, a 3.79 ERA, has collected 33 strikeouts while tallying a WHIP of 1.26, and pitched his first complete game on Sunday.
In 2008 in the minor leagues, Bergesen had a very surprising year. He started the year in High A Frederick, where he pitched only four games, going 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA.
The organization was impressed enough with the way he started, giving him a promotion to Double A Bowie, where he went 15-6, posting a 3.22 ERA, walking just 27 batters in 172 innings. The stellar season earned him Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year (Best O's Minor League pitcher), as well as an invitation to Spring Training in 2009.
O's scouting director Joe Jordan sums up Brad's game best: "He’s not a sexy guy because he doesn’t throw really really hard, but he knows what the hell he’s doing."
That's exactly what makes Bergesen successful. He doesn't throw 102 MPH like Steven Strasburg, but has a feel for pitching, and that has allowed him to succeed in the minors, and now, the majors.
Bergesen first got a taste of the majors on April 21, when utility man Ryan Freel went on the disabled list, and the O's called up outfielder Lou Montanez and Bergesen.
That day, Bergesen made his debut against the Chicago White Sox, a very high-powered lineup. However, "Bergy" showed solid poise, pitching five and two thirds innings, allowing four hits, one run, striking out three, and getting 13 ground ball outs.
Throughout the month of May, he pitched about how fans expected him to: average. Through May 29, he was 2-2 with a 4.94 ERA, impressive for a kid who wasn't even listed as a top 10 prospect in the O's system.
Since Andy MacPhail's arrival in the front office in 2007, many O's fans refer to the load of pitching talent the O's have in the minors, led by Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta as "the cavalry."
Bergesen is not regarded as the leader of this cavalry. He's only another member of a talented farm system, and some O's fans have already written him off, regarding him as a future relief pitcher, giving him no shot due to the talent elsewhere in the minors, and the talent to be brought in some time in the future.
However, if there's one thing Bergesen has proved the most so far, it's doubters wrong. In his last four starts, he is 3-0, has a 1.69 ERA, has struck out 15, and walked five.
Since top prospect Matt Wieters has come up, "Bergy" looks more comfortable on the mound. In Wieters' first game up, Bergesen pitched into the ninth, finishing with an eight inning, two-run performance. He was obviously frustrated he couldn't have gone the distance, but it was nonetheless a solid outing.
In his next outing, against a weak Seattle Mariner offense, he allowed just two runs in seven innings, but due to the O's lack of offense, he got a no-decision.
He was better in his next start, shutting out the Mariners over eight innings of work, allowing five hits, no walks, and six strikeouts. While he was able to get a win, 4-1, the O's offense was definitely struggling.
Had any other O's starting pitcher appeared in that game, it's likely the O's would've lost. In a Sunday win over the Atlanta Braves, Bergesen went the distance, allowing only solo homers to catcher David Ross in an 11-2 victory.
Bergesen's style is simple. Work fast, throw strikes, and get ground balls. In his last four starts, he has thrown 105, 105, 97, and 112 pitches. In those starts, the games last an average of two hours and 25 minutes, and he has thrown 69 percent of those pitches for strikes.
So far, Bergesen has flashed a very good sinker, has had a solid repertoire of breaking pitches, and has 56 ground ball outs in his last four starts.
It's very encouraging to see when guys like Bergesen, Jason Berken, and David Hernandez have done well for the most part, and aren't even close to the hype received by guys like Arrieta, Tillman, Matusz, and even Brandon Erbe and Troy Patton.
Bergesen likely won't be a future ace, but he is a guy who could be a No. 3 if he keeps up at this rate. Bergy is not the "leader" of the cavalry. Not the sexiest pitcher. He doesn't blow the fastball by hitters, but has a great feel for pitching.
“I didn’t draft Brad, but I love watching him pitch,” scouting director Joe Jordan said. “Because, probably as much as anyone in the organization he knows who he is, he knows what he does and knows how to use his pitches, and he just goes out there and does it.”
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