Guthrie, Bergesen remain motivated
Pitchers excited to be part of improved Orioles rotation
BALTIMORE -- Less scrutiny doesn't mean less pressure. Brad Bergesen and Jeremy Guthrie will both have the glare lessened by some of their more celebrated rotation mates next season, but that doesn't mean they'll pitch any differently out of the spotlight. Guthrie made that clear on Jan. 23 at FanFest, when he answered a question about his improved supporting cast.
"My pressure is self-motivated, self-supplied," said Guthrie, last year's Opening Day starter. "If I didn't pitch well, you could put CC Sabathia, Johan Santana and Cliff Lee around me and it's not going to make me feel any better about my ability to pitch. Those guys can do what they do, and ultimately it's my responsibility to do what I can do when it's my turn to pitch."
That may be the case, but it's also true that Guthrie's talents should be better framed in the upcoming season. Kevin Millwood will be counted on to face the opposing team's best starter in 2010, slotting Guthrie one row further back. After that, Bergesen's presence will be somewhat shaded due to more heralded youngsters in Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.
And what that means, in the big picture, is a better case of rotational depth than Baltimore has had in several seasons. That's got to be encouraging to Guthrie, who assumed much of the load last season in a rotation crowded with rookies. The former first-round draftee didn't have the year he wanted, but he's put 2009 behind him for good and is looking forward to 2010.
"There was no lasting memory, per se, to wash out," he said at FanFest. "It's just a new season. At the end, I felt like I had more consistency on my delivery. I finished the season on a note where I felt positive going into the offseason."
Things are a little different for Bergesen, who thrived all season before ending the year on a down note. The right-hander was one of the surprise stories for the Orioles, before he got hit in the left shin by a comebacker, and then he spent the last two months trying to get back on the mound. It didn't happen, making him extra antsy for Spring Training to roll around.
"It was very stressful," he said of his recovery. "It was very mentally draining, because I kept thinking I was going to make a comeback. Originally, once I found out it wasn't broke, I was only going to miss one or two starts. Then that day came two weeks later, and two starts became four starts, four starts became six starts. Then they just ended up shutting me down."
Bergesen isn't worried about taking the mound again, and he half-joked that things may have been different if he'd been hit in the head instead of the shin. The former fourth-round draftee still hasn't thrown off the mound yet this winter, but he said that's largely because pitching coach Rick Kranitz and manager Dave Trembley asked him to wait a little bit longer.
The right-hander maintained that he's felt 100 percent since the beginning of November, though, and he's not worried at all about his physical condition. Bergesen, who completed at least six innings in 15 of his 19 big league starts last season, said he's looking forward to testing himself against the world's best hitters and learning from guys like Millwood.
"It's huge," he said of the impact of adding Millwood, a former All-Star. "I haven't gotten a chance to meet him yet, but I'm really looking forward to the spring and being able to pick his mind, to ask him a million questions and try to learn something from him. ... I know he helped a lot of the young guys in Texas, so I just look forward to getting to work with him."
Bergesen, the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, had the best results of any of Baltimore's young pitchers last year. Tillman and Matusz get mentioned a lot more often by scouts and writers for national publications, but Bergesen seems comfortable with his space in the rotation and with being part of the team's greater youth movement.
"As far as having all the young guys up, it's pretty special just to have a group of guys you know and that you were friends with in the Minor Leagues," he said. "We went through a lot trying to get to this point, and now we can share it together."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.