By JAY LeBLANC
August 11, 2008
Brad Bergesen was considered a pretty good pitching prospect entering this season, but he’s taken his game to a whole new level in 2008. The Baltimore Orioles assigned the 22-year-old righty to the advanced Class A Frederick Keys to begin the year after he struggled in a 10-game Carolina League audition in the second half of 2007, but he quickly earned a promoted to the double-A Bowie Baysox after posting a 2.08 ERA in his first five starts. Since then, Bergesen has won an Eastern League-best 14 games while dropping just three decisions, and he ranks fifth in the circuit with a 3.01 ERA. He earned Eastern League All-Star honors at midseason, and has been mentioned as a possible September call-up.
Bergesen, a 2005 fourth-round pick out of Foothill High School in Pleasanton, Calif., doesn’t try to blow hitters away - he’s registered just 78 strikeouts this season in 143 innings of work. Instead, he succeeds by mixing his pitches, changing speeds, hitting his spots and trusting his defense. The 6’ 2”, 205 pounder also relies on impeccable control; he’s issued just 27 walks this year after yielding only 26 free passes all of last season. Bergesen entered 2008 ranked by Baseball America as the Orioles’ No. 26 prospect, but has forced his way into the team’s future plans as a result of his outstanding performance this season and will undoubtedly be much higher on next season’s list. I caught up with Bergesen on Wednesday after his Baysox rallied to beat the Binghamton Mets:
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 and Mayor of the National Pastime web community. His Prospect Q&A column runs every Monday and Thursday throughout the season. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s: Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Nick Weglarz, Indians; Gorkys Hernandez, Braves; Beau Mills, Indians; Stephen King, Nationals.