• Feb

    Bergesen's Mistake Could Open Opportunity

    Brad Bergesen is one the guys I'm really looking forward to watching in 2010. He works fast, throws strikes, and is a ground ball inducing machine. He's a guy who was drafted in the 4th round and developed year after year, improving at each stop in the minor league system. He's the kind of guy you root for.

    Saying that, what in God's name was he thinking? In case you were living in your snow caves still and haven't heard, the Orioles announced Bergesen hurt his shoulder throwing for this commercial for an Orioles promo. Apparently, the producer asked him to throw at game speed and Bergesen, who was eager to please, got caught up in the moment and strained his shoulder by throwing all out. The sad part is if you watch the commercial, his delivery is sped up anyways.

    I know a lot of folks will get mad at the Orioles and Andy MacPhail did say the Orioles will now monitor any commercials in which the players take part, but Bergesen should know better. He may have been a rookie last year, but he's been pitching professionally since 2004 and there's no excuse to push yourself or to do anything outside of your off season throwing program.

    Luckily for the Orioles, the MRI revealed it was nothing more than a shoulder strain and it was announced he will be limited through the first ten days of spring training. Bergesen is on a throwing progression program and has reportedly feels better and the hope is with no setbacks he will be ready by opening day.

    However, like with any injury, opportunities comes knocking and the guy who could be affected the most by this situation is flame throwing rookie Jake Arrieta. Arrieta started the year last year in Bowie's rotation but quickly proved too good for Eastern League batters posting a 2.63 ERA while striking out 10.7 batters per nine innings in 11 starts.

    He was promoted to Norfolk where most observers felt he would do very well, especially in pitcher friendly Harbor Park in Norfolk. However, Arrieta struggled with his mechanics a bit, especially finding a consistent release point, and ended up allowing more than a hit an inning and striking out less then a batter an inning for the first time in his career while posting a 3.93 ERA in 17 starts. Batters hit .276  off him but they managed a .333 BABIP which means they were a bit lucky.

    When he's on, Arrieta can be downright filthy with a 93-95 MPH fastball that can touch 96-97 on occasion and an above average slider. However, some scouts believe everything is hard and up in the zone too much and that hitters tend to time him well the second and third time through the lineup. The stats bear this out as International League batters hit just .221 off him with a 8.15 K/9 and 2.66 BB/9 through the first four innings of work but crushed him for a .362 average 5.60 K/9 and 4.20 BB/9 in the 5th through 7th innings of work. Some believe that the more patient mature hitters tended to lay off those high fastballs and forced him to pitch more down in the zone where he's more hittable.

    If Bergesen is fine, Arrieta will compete with Chris Tillman, David Hernandez and possibly Jason Berken although it's Tillman's job to lose. Although Hernandez and Berken remain possibilities if Bergesen is unable to answer the bell come opening day, if Arrieta flashes his promise he might make manager Dave Trembley think twice about sending him back for more seasoning at Norfolk.

    With Hernandez and Berken more suited for relief roles, Arrieta controls his own destiny if one of the Orioles five starters (Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Bergesen and Tillman) go down for any length of time or seriously struggle. He'll be 24-years old come opening day and if he shows an ability to command his change up more often, he could be the first call if a need arises in the Orioles rotation.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.