Did You See That?!?
Wow! That was all I thought of as I was watching Brad Bergesen debut last night. Orioles excitement was alive and well in my house last night. Nothing, not even the monsoon that passed over the region last night, would dampen my mood as I sat down and enjoyed the beginning of what I have been saying will be a bright future! That’s right the future began last night and he began with an emphatic bang.
Brad Bergesen, the first of what is expected to be a great collection of young arms, took the mound last night against the Chicago White Sox. Not only was he saddled with the pressure of his first Major League start, he was also saddled with the pressure of being the first of this great wave to come into Camden Yards and re-energize this franchise and rebuild the hopes that some day soon, the Orioles will be relevant again. If successful, the fans may start to believe in the plan that Andy McPhail has laid out for us but if he fails many would be left to question what exactly we are supposed to be hopeful for.
While the debut for Bergesen was delayed for more than an hour and a half it surely was not dampened. He came out and shut down the Chicago White Sox hitters with the maturity and confidence of an All-Star. From his first pitch of the game until he was questionably removed in the sixth inning, he owned the mound. It seemed as though every pitch he threw went right were he had planned on pitching it and all the Sox hitters could do was beat it into the ground. Bergesen started the first 3 and two-thirds innings of his career without allowing a hit. If it had not been for an error on Wigginton in the fourth, who knows how much longer he could have pitched no-hit ball. Not only did the error lead to the first hit by a White Sox player, it also forced Bergesen to throw an additional 15-20 pitches in the forth inning. If Wigginton catches the ground ball hit at him by Quentin, more than likely the Orioles turn two and get out the inning with a 2-0 lead. Bergesen would have also been saved those additional pitches and could have pitched further into the game saving a bullpen that has been taxed to this point. This is the problems with bad defense. Not only are you preventing an out and putting extra people on the bases, but you are extending your pitcher. You are forcing him to throw more pitches which, in turn, forces him out of the game sooner. When you are getting an effective start out of your pitcher, the last thing you want to do is break into an over-worked and not-so-effective bullpen.
Well enough about my tangent on why defense is so important. Today is a day for celebration and excitement. That’s right, we are here to commend Bergesen for a job well done. He really impressed me in every aspect of his game. I was really impressed with his movement. His balls seemed to dart all over the place. They moved down in the strike zone and from side to side with a great zip to them. He really looked tough to hit. This was evident as very few hitters were able to get the ball into the air and out of the infield. In fact, of the first ten outs Bergesen recorded, 6 were via the ground ball and the other 4 were as a result of a strike out. For the game, only three outs were recorded on balls hit to the outfield, 2 fly outs and 1 put out for Markakis off of a single to right.
Two things really impressed me about Bergesen’s debut. The first thing was when he faced Quentin in the first inning. After cruising through Getz and Fields to start the game, Quentin presented Bergesen with his first challenge by way of a 13 pitch at-bat. Quentin continued to battle Bergesen as he fought off good pitch after good pitch. Bergesen’s maturity really showed to me in this at-bat as he never gave in and stuck to his plan. He kept the ball down and kept hitting his spots, never once showing any frustration for an inability to put the hitter away. Oftentimes, pitchers of any level of experience will get frustrated when a batter extends the at-bats with a number of foul balls and ultimately, ends up walking the batter or grooving a pitch that allows the hitter to reach base. Bergesen did neither of those things as he kept making his pitches before ultimately striking him out. That was a battle and Bergesen was able to prevail.
The other aspect to Bergesen’s start that really impressed me was his poise and plan out on the mound. While watching Bergesen pitch yesterday it was clear to me he had a plan as to what he needed to do and with the help of Zaun behind the plate his was able to successfully put his plan into play. Some people are throwers and some are pitchers. After watching Bergesen last night it was clear he is a pitcher. He came into the game with a strategy of mainly staying down in the strike zone and moving the ball in and out to the hitters. He accomplished that. He kept the ball darting towards the ground, preventing hitters from getting under it, and successfully pitched to both sides of the strike zone. He also was aware of the importance of changing the level of plain that hitters look at as he managed to select his spots where he would run a ball up in the strike zone, to keep hitters off balance, but never in a hittable location. When ever he went up in the strike zone is was always with care as he never left a pitch up in the strike zone in a position where a hitter would be able to drive it.
Bergesen’s debut was great to see for all Orioles fans. It showed us a couple of things. First, we learned that Bergesen might be the real deal. He is more of a pitcher, like Mussina, not just thrower, like Cabrera. The future for Bergesen seems bright. The other thing that we may have learned from this game is that the plan the Orioles have been trying to sell may just be worth buying after all.