Brad Bergesen earned his first career double-A complete game shutout Wednesday evening in a rain-shortened 5-inning game, but earning those two stats are signs of his growth as a pitcher this season.
“It’s kind of a weak complete game, but it’s there,” Bergesen said, but the fact that it was “just” five innings should not diminish the accomplishments from throughout his 2008 season.
Bergesen, who started the season in Frederick after a bit of a rough go there in 10 Carolina League starts in 2007, has come on to be the most reliable pitcher on the Bowie staff so far. He has pitched in 108.1 innings in just 17 games, good for 16th in the Eastern League, where every other starter ahead of him has pitched in at least two more games.
A five-inning victory, and completing those innings in fewer than 60 pitches was a much-needed relief for the All-Star pitcher.
“It’s always a nice break and give the arm a rest, and for the rest of the team also,” Bergesen told ITW. “It was nice that [the umpires] were able to call it quick instead of have us wait around all day and decide to finish it and have us get warmed up again, so it was a nice little break.”
The start, though, has been a part of a trend that has had Bergesen moving up the prospect ranks in the organization. He kept the ball in the strike zone, and kept the ball on the ground. He walked just one batter, and in his past 10 starts, he’s surrendered only 10 free passes. Right now, his WHIP of 1.14 leads all active Eastern League pitchers, and his 2.91 ERA is fourth over all.
The Baysox pitching coach, Mike “Griff” Griffin, was really proud of his pitcher’s first shutout at this level.
“To his credit he trusted his sinker, mixed in a couple sliders and a couple changeups just enough to keep them off the sinker or to think about other pitches,” Griff said. “He got a little quick in his delivery [in the fourth inning], but to his credit, something that he and I have talked about quite a lot in the past month, he was able to recognize and make the adjustment to get a huge, huge, strikeout [with the bases loaded and nobody out] to allow him to get the double play to get out of the inning. So, I was happy with Bergy.”
The key to Bergesen’s success so far has been locating his sinker while mixing in an improved slider, which Griff says is “very average,” a step up from where it was last year, and an average changeup. Griff likes to stress tempo, so if Bergesen has a good tempo, his sinker will stay down, the slider will have a nice tilt to it, and his changeup will fool lefties.
“He’s been talking to me a lot about [tempo and slowing down] the last three outings,” Bergesen explained. “So, my thing is that I start to work a little too quick, so [Griff] has had me really pay attention to myself about where my tempo is and where my speed.”
When Bergesen’s tempo is off his sinker stays up. When the ball is left up, it is very hittable. In his win against Reading on July 18, all three of his runs were given up on solo homers, all three sinkers that didn’t. But, again, his plus control bails him out of giving up the occasional home run by minimizing the base runners.
While adjusting to a good tempo in a game is one thing Bergesen has been working on, there is one other glaring stat that shows a potential issue. Left-handed batters are hitting for a .316 average, compared to just .201 for right-handed batters. For now, this problem is alleviated by his plus control. He has walked just 20 batters in Bowie this season, so far.
Griff said he makes a point to mention tempo everyday, to all of his pitchers.
“It’s big for a pitcher, not just a starter, it’s huge for a reliever too,” Griff explained. “When your tempo starts to pick up, and first of all I have our pitchers identify what kind of pitchers are you, ‘Bergy, what’s your forte?’ ‘I get groundballs.’ ‘When you start to see your sinker start to elevate what are you doing?’”
Griff was not the only one who stressed the importance of Bergesen knowing what kind of a pitcher he is. Orioles Director of Scouting Joe Jordan sees the importance and likes how Bergesen has taken to his style.
“I didn’t draft Brad, but I love watching him pitch,” 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.”
Jordan likes the way Bergesen stays in the strike zone and challenges the bats, saying that is what he’ll do when he gets to the big leagues, by staying within himself. He also explained why he might have crept up on the Eastern League.
“He’s not a sexy guy because he doesn’t throw really really hard, but he knows what the hell he’s doing.”
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