O’s spring training: The 25 who will make it (#12)

March 06, 2010 | Drew Forrester

You’re only as good as your starting pitching.

Is that the saying?

Thought so.

In 2010, there’s no doubt the O’s hopeful rise towards the .500 mark for the first time since “Wild Bill” was President rests mainly in the overall success of the starting pitchers.

And one of the young men on the hot seat is Brad Bergesen. He was the first of the gang to go north last spring, showing up in late April after Alfredo Simon’s elbow blew out and Adam Eaton’s ERA blew up.  All “Bergy” did was mow down the White Sox in his major league debut on 4/22/09 and conclude his first ML campaign by pitching into the 6th inning in 18 of his 19 starts.  Before getting drilled on the knee by a line drive on July 30, he was on pace to throw at least 175 innings and would have had double figures in wins for sure had he pitched at all over the last two months of the campaign.  He finished the season with a sparkling 3.43 ERA, nearly a run per-game less than the league average.  And don’t forget, he did that while playing on one of the worst teams in the Majors.

Odds he’ll be on the roster at the start of the season: 100%

Odds he’ll be on the roster at the end of the season:  100%

Odds he’ll be an effective contributor in 2010:  75%

Odds his name will be mentioned at the trade deadline in late July:  20%

Summary:  His 2009 numbers speak volumes about his potential.  Reliable, as noted by the 18 of 19 starts with at least six innings, stingy with baserunners (his WHIP was only 1.281) and equally hesitant to walk anyone (33 walks in 19 starts), the only blip on his pitching screen is his low strike-out total (65 k’s a year ago).  But Bergesen is a bulldog-type on the mound, something the O’s will need in 2010 when facing the beasts of the A.L. East.  He doesn’t give up regardless of the count and when he gets ahead of the hitter, that nifty down and away slider to right handed batters is one of the best out-pitches anyone possesses on the entire roster.

Because the Orioles don’t have a lot of “sweat equity” invested him – as opposed to the draft cost attached to guys like Matusz and Arrieta – there’s always a chance he could be packaged with a veteran player at the deadline.  I doubt that happens, based solely on what I saw last year, but let’s just say Arrieta comes up this May and has 12 decent starts and the O’s make a pitch for their own veteran at the deadline.  It wouldn’t be completely out of the question to package Bergesen with someone else in late July, although I highly doubt that happens.

I think Bergesen is a keeper.  I like his mentality on the mound and he’s certainly going to benefit from having Millwood hanging around preaching the gospel of how to pitch in the big leagues.  In my mind, he’s better than either Hernandez or Berken, by a long shot, and I’d say Chris Tillman has a leap or two to make to be as reliable and competitive as Bergesen.

Because he only threw 123 innings in 2009, the “Verducci Rule” (not allowing young pitchers to throw 30 more innings than their previous year) might limit him to 175’ish in 2010.  But if he gives the O’s 175 quality innings, they’ll be well on their way to .500.

Drew’s projections for Bergesen in 2010:

* 166 innings

* 12-11 record

* 4.01 ERA

* 1.250 WHIP