The Washington Times - April 20, 2009, 11:33PM

By JAY LeBLANC

Brad Bergesen isn’t usually the first guy mentioned when people talk about the Baltimore Orioles‘ top pitching prospects - that would be either Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta or Brian Matusz - but he’ll be the first to get a chance to stick in the big league rotation. Bergesen, a 23-year-old right-hander who opened the season with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides despite an impressive showing in spring training, is set to make his Major League debut tonight against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards.

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The Orioles selected Bergesen in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, and he made steady progress over the next two and a half seasons before coming into his own in 2008. After posting a 2.08 ERA in five starts for the advanced Class A Frederick Keys, Bergesen was promoted to the Double-A Bowie Baysox. He proceeded to go 15-6 with a 3.22 ERA the rest of the way to earn Eastern League Pitcher of the Year honors. A good start this year - he went 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts for Norfolk - put him first in line for a shot when an injury to right-hander Alfredo Simon opened up a spot in the big league rotation.

Bergesen doesn’t try to overpower hitters, as evidenced by his mere 87 K’s in 165 1/3 innings last season. Instead, he succeeds by mixing his pitches, changing speeds, hitting his spots and trusting his defense. The 6-foot-2, 205 pounder also relies on impeccable control - he issued just 33 walks last season after allowing just 26 free passes in 2007. In an Aug. 9 interview with The Washington Times’ National Pastime, Bergesen talked about life as a contact pitcher and revealed the secrets to his 2008 success:

Q: What was your first reaction when you learned you’d been drafted by the Orioles? Did you know in advance that they were looking to pick you?

A: You know, it happed so quick. I had about six teams calling me all at once, and all of a sudden I see my name picked by the Orioles, and that was it. I kind of had an idea that they were interested, but you never know for sure until you’re taken.

Q: You’re having your best season by far as a pro. What has made you more effective this year than you’ve been in previous seasons?

A: You know, I think it’s just learning command and a little bit more movement. I’d been working on my slider a lot more this past offseason, so I can kind of attribute it to that.

Q: Can you tell the difference in the level of competition as you climb the organizational ladder?

A: Oh, absolutely. Every level I’ve gone up, I’ve noticed a difference. It’s just like a pyramid - every best player you play against at one level, you’re playing against the same guys at the higher levels also.

Q: Could you talk a bit about the different pitches you throw and how you like to use them?

A: I throw a fastball; I throw a four-seamer and a two-seamer. I throw a split-changeup, and I throw a slider and curveball. And just kind of depending on what’s working that day, I try to go along with it. My changeup is usually my go-to pitch; I feel most comfortable throwing that in any count, and I feel like I have the best control of it.

Q: Do you consider yourself a strikeout pitcher, a guy who pitches to contact, or some mixture of the two?

A: Oh, definitely a contact pitcher. I think this year I may be getting a strikeout once every three innings, three per nine. I definitely try to pitch to contact and let my guys work behind me.

Q: What are some aspects of your game that you’re trying to improve upon this season?

A: I think it’s just being consistent with all my pitches. My curveball and slider are probably the ones I have to work on the most … just becoming a little more consistent, maybe getting a little sharper break out of them, and continuing to work on them.

Q: Is there any pitcher, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?

A: Growing up, I always liked watching Nolan Ryan. He’s obviously a power pitcher and I don’t see myself as being that same type of pitcher, but that’s who I liked growing up. Brandon Webb, a big groundball pitcher, is a guy I like to watch also.

Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Orioles?

A: That’s not my decision, obviously. That’s what I hope for, and anytime, I would be just absolutely thrilled to get that call-up. But again, that’s not up to me; I can just hope for the best.

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at jleblanc@washingtontimes.com.

Click here to view the original Brad Bergesen Prospect Q&A