Bergesen bounces back in O's shutout
Wigginton's two-run shot stands up in win over Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- The best thing that could have happened to Orioles starter Brad Bergesen this season was a one-way ticket to Triple-A Norfolk.
Following his third straight disappointing start -- this time in Seattle where Bergesen allowed seven runs (four earned) and didn't make it out of the third inning -- the Orioles met with the young right-hander behind closed doors and delivered the news: Bergesen was being optioned back to the Minors.
It was the first time in the 24-year-old career's that Bergesen had taken any sort of step back, and it was both a rude awakening and a welcome change. The Orioles wanted Bergesen -- then 0-2 with a 12.19 ERA -- to get back his sinker and get back in sync.
Bergesen succeeded on both accounts Thursday, battling a steady stream of rainfall and pesky Twins batters to fire 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the Orioles' 2-0 series-opening win over Minnesota in front of a sellout crowd of 38,489 at Target Field.
"He knew there was things he had to work on, both from the mental side and the physical side," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He went and did it [in Triple-A] and it showed [Thursday night]. You just have to be thrilled for him. He's dealt with it head-on, with no excuses."
Bergesen credited his 10-day stint in Norfolk, which included one start, for helping him maintain an even keel and establish an early rhythm on the mound.
"It's a stressful atmosphere [in the Majors], and I got down there and really tried to relax and tried to get back to my old self," Bergesen said. "I had some good conversations down there. I think that was the main thing, just getting down there, getting away from it all."
Officially recalled for his first start back on Saturday, Bergesen allowed four runs over five innings to the Red Sox in a 12-9 Orioles win that was all about the offense. On Thursday, the young right-hander and his effervescent sinker stole the show.
"He kept throwing that sinker and getting ground balls and did a heck of a job of it," Twins manager Ron Gardnerhire said. "He had that ball really moving. Some times you just have say the guy did a heck of a job against us."
After pitching around a pair of two-out singles in the second inning, Bergesen ran into his biggest jam in the third. He loaded the bases on a one-out double to Denard Span and a pair of two-out walks to Justin Morneau and Jim Thome. After getting behind Michael Cuddyer, 1-0, Bergesen got the Twins right fielder to fly out to deep-center field to end the inning.
"That's the break I felt I was missing at times in previous starts," Bergesen said. "[Adam] Jones made a great play ,and it's a huge confidence booster getting out of that jam."
A finesse pitcher who relies on the heavy sink action to his fastball, Bergesen consistently got ground balls in key situations, giving way to a frustrating night for the Twins. Minnesota went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
"That's not only the best I've seen him pitch, that's probably the most relaxed I've seen him," Trembley said. "He showed confidence in all of his pitches, especially his changeup, and he didn't throw too many pitches up. Most of his pitches were down and had movement."
Bergesen retired nine of 10 batters at one point before exiting in favor of Will Ohman with two outs in the seventh and a pair of runners aboard.
"This is the Brad Bergesen that was advertised," Ohman said.
Tasked to protected Bergesen's lead, Ohman got ahead, 0-2, on Morneau before throwing four successive balls to load the bases. With the sellout crowd on its feet, Ohman rebounded with a swinging strikeout of Thome to quash the threat.
The Orioles plated all the offense needed with one swing of red-hot Ty Wigginton's bat in the second inning. Miguel Tejada legged out an infield single, sliding head first into the first-base bag to open the inning, and Wigginton followed with his team-leading 10th homer of the year. Wigginton blasted Twins starter Carl Pavano's 1-1 pitch an estimated 404 feet to give Baltimore a two-run lead.
"It was a slider I hung, and he put a hurting on it," Pavano said.
In 19 career at-bats against Pavano, Wigginton has four hits, three of which are homers. Filling in for injured second baseman Brian Roberts, Wigginton notched his sixth multi-RBI game and is just one homer shy of his total from all of 2009.
"The way Bergesen came out and threw, we didn't need a whole lot of runs," Wigginton said.
"He was outstanding, it was a lot of fun. It makes it a lot easier to play defense behind a guy like that. You know you are going to get ground balls in the infield, and he was hitting his spots in locations where fielders can actually cheat and move with a pitch. And anytime a pitcher is hitting the spot, it's fun to play behind him."
Alfredo Simon worked the ninth for his third save, while Japanese reliever Koji Uehara -- who was reinstated prior to the game -- made his season debut in the eighth inning, tossing a perfect frame on 12 pitches.
"What he has one time around, he has deception," Trembley said of Koji. "He'll use different arm angles, and he'll take something off. Boy, it's nice to have him out there. It was a big lift for our team."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.