- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 12, 2006

Jason Bergmann hopes his conversion back to starter from reliever will keep him in the big leagues for good.

Bergmann, a right-handed pitcher in his fourth stint with the Washington Nationals this season after bouncing back and forth between the majors and Class AAA New Orleans, will start today against the New York Mets. In 17 relief appearances with the Nationals this year, he had an 8.14 ERA.

“Every time you give up six earned runs and you’re a reliever, that’s a tough time to get your ERA down,” Bergmann said. “It’s another fresh slate for me I guess in terms of getting called up and down. Everyone has congratulated me and welcomed me back. It’s good to be up and we’ll go from there.”

Bergmann might be back out of desperation. With Livan Hernandez traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks and a bullpen that resembles something out of Class AAA, the club was in need of a fresh arm for the rotation.

The Nationals asked New Orleans Zephyrs manager Tim Foli to try Bergmann as a starter. After 22 appearances out of the Zephyrs bullpen to begin the season, the 24-year-old Bergmann has made four starts. He is 3-1 with a 3.63 ERA in 221/3 innings since the move on July 21.

“By doing that to him down in the minors — stretching him out and looking at him as a starter — well, we’ll take a look at him as a starter up here,” Robinson said. “Maybe that’s his niche. Jason has the stuff. The arm strength is good and he has the pitches.”

Today will be Bergmann’s second-ever big-league start. He made one in 2005. The Rutgers product spent the first 21/2 years of his pro career as a starter before moving to the bullpen in June 2004.

Nowhere to go

Daryle Ward is earning a reputation as quite the pinch-hitter.

Ward, 31, is second in the majors with 14 pinch hits, one pinch-hit behind Philadelphia’s David Delluci. Going into last night’s game, Ward was 3-for-3 with a walk in his last four pinch-hit plate appearances.

Overall, Ward is hitting .330 with five home runs, eight doubles, and 16 RBI in 88 at-bats this season.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a position available for Ward.

“That’s the one. I can get him playing time, if I had someplace to play him,” Robinson said.

Throwback night

In honor of the Negro Leagues, the Nationals and the Mets wore throwback uniforms from the era. The Nationals wore the dark blue pinstripes of the Homestead Grays while the Mets wore the gray road uniforms of the New York Cubans. The Nationals’ caps were dark blue with a white G. The jersey featured a dark blue “W” on the left sleeve.

Extra base

The Nationals announced the formation of a baseball operations minority internship program yesterday. The team’s minority internship initiative will provide five to 10 candidates field and classroom-type experiences in the areas of baseball administration, scouting and player development. The program will give the candidates a chance to work with many of the Nationals’ high-ranking executives, instructors and scouts on an extended basis.

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