Trembley puts his trust in Bergesen
Righty, on first Opening Day roster, starts O's home opener
ST. PETERSBURG -- It's been a hallmark of every season he's played since his time in short-season Aberdeen in 2005. Following each start, right-hander Brad Bergesen will grab a box score and write down every pitch he threw to every opposing hitter, a reference later stored in a binder and cataloged by year.
"He may never even see that batter again the rest of the year, but that's just something he does to prepare himself to succeed," said David Hernandez, who has been a teammate of Bergesen's since their days in the New York-Penn League.
Hernandez, who won the Orioles' fifth rotation spot out of camp, is no stranger to being under the radar in Baltimore's pitching-rich Minor League system. In Bergesen's case, Hernandez thinks it drove the right-hander to work even harder.
"That's something we thrive on that makes us better," Hernandez said. "[Bergesen] works unbelievably hard in the things he does on the field and off the field. ... You just see how much time and energy and effort he puts into each day just to prepare for each outing."
Come Friday at 3:05 p.m. ET, the initial entry in 2010's book will be unlike any other. On the heels of making his first Opening Day roster, Bergesen has been tabbed to start the Orioles' home opener against the Blue Jays. It is, in the words of the 24-year-old Bergesen, "a dream come true."
And like most everything Bergesen has accomplished up to this point, it hasn't come easily. Though the right-hander's work ethic has never been called into question, it was severely tested this offseason. After a liner to his left shin ended his solid rookie campaign last July, Bergesen strained his right shoulder capsule in December.
"He was in bad shape," said his father, Art Bergesen.
Brad and his wife, Shea, spent the offseason at the elder Bergesen's home in California, and Art recalls the devastation that came with the simple act of the pair trying to play catch.
"He made two throws and couldn't lift his arm," Art said. "It's not like him to nurse an injury or not want to push through it. And when I watched him not able to throw, which was sometime in January, I didn't think there was any way he would be ready [to start the season]."
Bergesen threw himself into a steady and incredibly tedious rehab regimen with the team's athletic staff. Many mornings, an upbeat Bergesen would talk about the Orioles' history, asking questions about pitchers of the past and eagerly absorbing the information.
Manager Dave Trembley had told Bergesen at the team's FanFest in late January that the right-hander was penciled in for the home opener. Bergesen thought it was meant to keep his spirits up. Trembley saw otherwise.
"I was confident he would be ready to start the season with us," Trembley said. "I didn't want him to come into camp thinking it was going to be a tryout. [I told him] that he had made the club and that I had him penciled him as the fourth starter on the team, and if it fell the way it was, he would get the home opener."
"I trust Bergesen. Even though he may be young as far as the Major League level is concerned, he's got his head on right. The way he goes about it is the way it's supposed to be."
The only task was getting his right arm where it should be, and the test officially started with Bergesen's first spring start, on March 10. He tossed 35 pitches in that outing, and though he was disappointed about going only 1 1/3 innings, his presence on the mound -- brimming with thinly veiled excitement -- was notable enough.
A setback-free spring saw Bergesen catch up to his rotation-mates over the ensuing weeks, making the dream of running out on the orange carpet at Camden Yards a distinct reality.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said of the Opening Day start.
"There's definitely those butterflies and a little bit of nervousness, but it's never to its fullest or exemplified until you get out there and start warming up and you get people out there yelling your name and cheering and everything," he said. "And that's what gives you those goose bumps."
And when he takes the field in front of a sold-out crowd, for a moment his father will be transported back to 2005, when he flew to Brooklyn to watch his son debut for Aberdeen.
"At that time, I thought it was the biggest thing in the world," said Art, who has never missed Bergesen's first start at any level.
"All of a sudden, to be at that Minor league park, which held about 8,000 people, I'll never forget it. Just seeing him out there in front of the most people he's ever been in front of ... I would say that was one of the proudest moments for me."
Friday's start promises to rank right up there with it, if not surpass it. Art remembers that day in January when an injured Brad mentioned in their daily phone call that Trembley wanted him to throw the home opener.
"I thought, 'Gee, how do they know? How can they be certain of that now?' " Art said. "And here we are, beginning of the season, and he's the guy."
Trembley wouldn't have it any other way.
"He's not intimidated," Trembley said. "And he doesn't want it handed to him. He will work for it, even now. When I told him [in January] that he was on the team, that it wasn't a tryout, he said, 'I want you to know that I don't take it for granted.' "
"He does his homework," Hernandez said. "And it's good to see him being so successful."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.