- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

VIERA, Fla. — Jason Bergmann got his chance to pitch against Georgetown, and the Washington Nationals starter showed the Hoyas what a Rutgers alumnus can do.

Bergmann was in the Big East for three seasons with the Scarlet Knights but never pitched against conference foe Georgetown. Now 26, he went up against a college lineup yesterday in an exhibition game.

“It was fun to go out there against those guys,” Bergmann said.

What was most important to Bergmann, though, was the work he put in for his first start in spring training, and he was pleased with the results — two innings pitched, no runs, no hits, one walk and three strikeouts.

“I felt pretty good,” Bergmann said. “I was able to locate the fastball pretty well, and coming into camp that was something I wanted to do is to have a fastball that I could put inside or outside a little bit better than last year. So far, one day, I was pretty pleased.”

Manager Manny Acta also was happy with what he saw on the mound.

“He threw the ball well,” Acta said. “Obviously, it’s a different kind of competition for him, but he looked sharp.”

Last year, Bergmann posted a 6-6 record with a 4.45 ERA in 21 starts. He allowed three runs or fewer in 15 of those starts.

Hoyas connection

Yesterday’s game meant a lot more to Nationals senior vice president of business affairs Michael Shapiro than it did to Bergmann. After all, Shapiro is a Georgetown graduate. Not only that, he played baseball at Georgetown and set up yesterday’s game.

“For me it was a great opportunity to give something back to the school where I went,” said Shapiro, who was at Georgetown from 1969 to 1973. “I had a great time there during those years. I was in and out of the baseball team because there were demonstrations and it was the Vietnam [War] era, and that became more important than playing baseball to me. I kind of regretted that happening, so this is kind of a redemption for me a little bit.”

Acta spoke to the Georgetown team after the blowout game.

“I just wanted to talk to their kids,” he said. “Hopefully we can make this an every year type of thing. … They couldn’t thank us enough for what we did. And actually, it was both ways. We really appreciate the fact they’re able to play us, too, because we do need the at-bats and the games early in spring training.

“I think this will help them. They’re getting ready to play in a tournament down here. We just gave them some encouraging words.”

Young vs. young

Josh Smoker, the 19-year-old left-handed pitcher selected with one of the two compensation picks for losing Alfonso Soriano in free agency, made his debut in a Washington Nationals uniform. He allowed two hits and one walk while striking out three in two scoreless innings.

A supplemental first-round pick taken 31st overall last year, he is younger than many of the Georgetown hitters he faced, but he handled his outing like a veteran.

“I was a little bit [nervous] at first in the bullpen,” Smoker said. “But when I got out on the field it kind of went away a little bit. You still have to work on your command and keeping the pitches down. You can’t take anybody for granted. … I was working mainly on my change-up. That is the pitch I have to get to where I want it, and as of right now, it is not where I want it, so I have to work on it a little bit better.”

Acta thought Smoker performed well.

“We were talking in the dugout [about] how he would be a freshman on their team,” he said. “At the beginning, he was a little rattled. But he kind of put it together and threw the ball well.”

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