Bergesen can set the tone for a new era

April 20, 2009 | Luke Jones

Earl Weaver said it best about winning and losing in baseball.

“Nobody likes to hear it, because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is always darn near the same – pitching.”

The Hall of Fame manager’s words unquestionably fit the 2009 edition of the Baltimore Orioles.  Despite the positive feelings of a 6-2 start, the signs were there that it was only a matter of time before the hitting could not overcome the miserable pitching.

Five games and 49 surrendered runs later, the Orioles hobble back to Camden Yards at 6-7, with the ineffective pitching, shaky fielding, and injuries beginning to mount.  The good vibes of the first 10 days of the season have all but vanished, as we realize the Orioles are exactly what we thought they would be.

A disastrous four-game sweep in Boston should not be surprising, but it stings nonetheless.  After all, it’s April, and every fan dreams of that surprising season–1977 and 1989 come to mind–no matter how improbable it might be.

It’s too early to lose all hope, isn’t it?

But this season is not about wins and losses–general manager Andy MacPhail has made this abundantly clear, like it or not.  It’s about the development of the young pitchers, as they prepare for their respective debuts in the big leagues.

Tuesday’s starter Brad Bergesen is the first in a new wave of promising young pitchers.  While he lacks the hype of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Tillman, he was the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, going 15-6 with a 3.22 ERA at Double-A Bowie.

Bergesen impressed this spring, posting a 3.09 ERA in 11 2/3 innings and nearly winning a spot on the Opening Day roster.   He won’t impress you with gaudy strikeout numbers or a blazing fastball, but he will induce grounders and throw strikes.  The right-hander surrendered a mere 90 walks in 491 1/3 career innings in the minor leagues–the same number of walks surrendered by former Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera last season.

That alone is refreshing.

For Orioles fans, Bergesen represents a glimmer of hope in a season that already appears to be spinning out of control.  No pressure on the kid, is there?

A good start would not only be positive for the 23-year-old’s development, but it would certainly lay credence to MacPhail’s restraint from signing veteran pitchers in the offseason.

Bergesen doesn’t need to pitch a shutout Tuesday night against the White Sox, but he needs to show signs that he belongs, signifying this new wave is going to be different than the false promises of the last 11 seasons.

Fans need results–not unfulfilled hype.

As promising as the young arms appear to be, we’ve heard this before.  In 2004, it was Matt Riley, Kurt Ainsworth, Erik Bedard, and Cabrera.  In 2007, it was Garrett Olson, Adam Loewen, Radhames Liz, and Hayden Penn.  Lots of promise–few results.

This time, it must be different.

In addition to providing a shot in the arm to the anemic rotation, Bergesen can spark some excitement in a fan base that is already becoming frustrated–if not disinterested–after the horrendous weekend at Fenway.

There will be bumps in the road along the way, as there is with every rookie pitcher, but a good start would go a long way in creating some positive feelings–both now and for the future.

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