Brad Bergesen: Look Over Your Shoulder

Having good pitching depth within an organization means that a MLB starter should never get too comfortable. Orioles right-hander Brad Bergesen is no doubt looking over his shoulder after two poor outings to start the season. The right-handed pitcher, best known for his sinking fastball, has allowed 15 hits and three walks in 7.2 innings. Bergesen’s fastball command has betrayed him so far this year and he got just one ground-ball out (compared two five fly-ball outs) last night against the Tampa Bay Rays.

There are currently two key pitching prospects biding their time in triple-A Norfolk. Jake Arrieta, 24, has seen his ground-ball rate take the opposite turn to Bergesen’s. In two starts, he’s allowed just six hits in 12.0 innings. On Wednesday night against the White Sox’ triple-A affiliate in Charlotte, Arrieta induced 11 ground-ball outs and gave up just four fly-ball outs. If he can keep up the worm burning it will help him while pitching in the potent American League East. His biggest need right now is to improve his control after walking six batters in 12.0 innings; it’s an issue that plagued him last season, as well.

Chris Tillman, 22, is technically no longer a rookie but the O’s sent him back to triple-A to begin 2010. He made 12 starts in the Majors in ’09 and he posted a FIP of 6.10. He showed OK control for his age with a walk rate of 3.32 BB/9 but his strikeout rate was on the low side at 5.40 K/9. Tillman struggled significantly with his fastball and posted a -1.62 wFB/C (fastball value, runs above average per 100 pitches). He’s struggling a bit in triple-A right now with a 5.19 ERA in two starts. He’s allowed 13 hits in 8.2 innings. On the plus side, he has struck out nine batters and walked just two.

If those two pitching options don’t do anything for you, the club has Brandon Erbe (22) and Troy Patton (24) in the Norfolk starting rotation. The organization also has the luxury of looking to MLB reliever Jason Berken, who was in the starting rotation last season for Baltimore, albeit with ugly results. His approach is better suited to the bullpen.

It’s still early – and too soon to panic – but the Orioles club plays in the American League East where every win counts. The club is not going to wait forever for Bergesen to find his mojo, especially when they have the luxury of quality pitching depth.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

7 Responses to “Brad Bergesen: Look Over Your Shoulder”

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  1. Matt Walsh says:

    Can’t disagree with the general premise, but let’s keep the very small sample size in mind

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  2. marc hulet says:

    I think that’s a given.

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  3. S.W. says:

    Don’t forget Zach Britton.

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  4. Matt P says:

    Bergy didn’t get started last year until late May. It’s a good thing they didn’t give up him when he had a 5.50 ERA after 8 starts.

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    • It’s also important to remember that Bergesen had a two to four week delay before starting spring training this year, thanks to injury. I’ll be campaigning for him to stay in the rotation if for no reason other than that he’s the nicest ballplayer I’ve ever interviewed.

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  5. Likewise, with the arms that the Blue Jays have in the minors, Brandon Morrow should be looking over his shoulder.

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  6. Axis of Honor 25 says:

    By the look at Arrieta’s BABIP of 2008 and 2009, he seems more like a flyout pitcher than groundout. I say give him more time in the minors.

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