Tuesday, March 18, 2008
In 2007, he stepped up when other pitchers went down with injury--early. And taking advantage of the situation at hand-- Our Number 57 nearly threw a No-Hitter against The Atlanta Braves--one fabulous Monday Night at RFK Stadium. Jason Bergmann arrived as a Major League Starter last season for Our Washington Nationals. Although two extended stints to The Disabled List--hindered his fine season--this Rutgers Graduate found a home in The Nation's Capital. Now--he's back for more. Unlike last spring--when Jason Bergmann told me he would do whatever Our Washington Nationals wanted to make The Big League Squad--2008 finds him attempting to solidify a position as a top five starter in DC.
Bergmann is very likable and I have always been impressed with his interest in bloggers. Our Number 57 believes the more written about the team--the better. An importance to baseball coverage which Sohna and I really appreciate. Jason is quite the engaging guy.
With that, here we go with The Spring Training Chat With Jason Bergmann.
How is everything working for you thus far? Do you feel good? (SBF)
“It Worked!! It Felt (Laughing).”
“Things are going well right now. I am working on my control a little more this year—my fastball command. You always need to have a pitch—during a tough spot—you are 100% confident in. So, I am trying to make my fastball that pitch—working it inside and outside. So far—it’s been great.”
How tough is it to get back into pitching mode after the winter layoff? (SBF)
“Not very hard. Hitters seem to need about a week (chuckling). Pitchers need about two and that's why we (pitchers) show up a little bit earlier. For such a long off-season—I went to The Dominican for a month, then I spent a couple of months doing some family stuff (He got married and bought a house). Now, I am right back into the swing of things. It just happens, like you never turned off (the spigot).”
Last year you had many players looking for a spot, in many cases this season—less positions are up for grabs. There seems to be a feeling the team is going in a positive direction. (SBF)
“Yes, but in a lot of ways, it does resemble last year. Still, a lot of people are fighting for jobs and not just rookies. We have veterans at all positions. We have more guys signed on to compete with them and it’s a friendly competition. Competition only makes you better. There is nothing set in stone. We have two veteran All Stars at first base (Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young). Neither one’s got a guaranteed spot. We’ve got All Stars up the middle (Cristian Guzman, Ronnie Belliard, Felipe Lopez). No one knows who is starting where. (Chuckling) I think (Ryan) Zimmerman is the safest guy on the team. Aside from that—(Paul) LoDuca has an injury, (Johnny) Estrada is hurting—but once healthy--they are going to push each other. And, (Jesus) Flores is going to push them.”
“We got guys in the outfield. We got seven or eight guys in the outfield who can start. So, a little friendly competition each way. I think this will push guys to be better and more prepared for Opening Day.”
The Depth is far greater than years past. (SBF)
“Yes, its very good. They (management) have done a great job. The Front Office really needs to be commended. And, you know we are going to come out of here (Viera) with the best team. It’s probably not going to make some guys happy (those that get cut)—but that’s the business of baseball.”
Having two catchers coming back from injury—how difficult is that to get use to a new person behind the plate—when you can’t really throw to them right away? (SBF)
“Its very unfortunate, but its something you just have to deal with. In Spring Training you don’t really throw to your main catcher a whole lot. You end up throwing to many different guys. You need a lot of catchers when you have 40 pitchers in camp. When there are seven or eight catchers in camp—you get a feel for all of them. You build a small rapport with all of them—but you have to understand one guy might not be there the very next day. So, you have to pitch to the strike zone—not necessarily to a specific catcher. While we are here—LoDuca is going to make an effort get out here on time. So far he has looked pretty good. I have not had the chance to throw with Estrada (at all). Every catcher is a good catcher—otherwise they would not be here.”
“The Chief” (Chad Cordero) was telling me the other day that he doesn’t throw his hardest for quite some time during camp. How about you? (SBF)
“No, never do you really let go early. I would say I am throwing about 85%. There is no reason to throw 100% right now. We are not fighting other players in practice. You are fighting them in a game. Whatever you do in practice—if you do well, or don’t do well—that’s fine. That’s one thing. But, if you do it in the game—get results and get the job done—then that’s what you are ultimately looking for.”
“When you are throwing here for live BP (Batting Practice)—you are not trying to strike guys out. With that hitter up at the plate—you are trying to throw strikes, move your pitches inside and out—get your stuff working. You can’t do that when no one is standing at the plate.”
So, when do you really turn it up? The first real game? (SBF)
“I gradually work my way up. You certainly have a different level. If you are going 100% in a game—you are going to be going 110%. That adrenaline is going to kick in—and you are a different guy (on the mound). There is no way of really controlling it. It’s too natural, because when the heat of the game gets to you—you will automatically take it to the next level.”
So—I guess that even though last season—you told me you would play any position to make the team—its looks like they want you as a pitcher? (SBF)
“Yeah—its does look like they want me to be a pitcher, but there is still competition—no one is guaranteed a job. From the top to the bottom—I got to be here like everyone else to take a job. And until they say I got a job—I cannot back down. Even then, you can’t back down—because there are nine hitters on each team looking to get you out of the game. So, you have to work as hard as you can.”
Changing subjects--I bet you can’t wait to play at New Nationals Park? (SBF)
(Smiling Broadly) “That place is UNBELIEVABLE!! The scoreboard is something else! (The Locker Room is better! —SBF) How many lockers do you THINK there are? (Jason asking SBF) Give me a number ?”
At least 45, maybe 50, in the oval. (SBF)
“You see, I thought they were building it as if The Washington Redskins were using it. So, I was figuring 90 players could get in there.”
I don’t think so. There are a few auxiliary locker rooms and separate coaches and manager’s locker room. (SBF)
“Its kind of funny. You are going to have guys yelling from one side (of the oval) to the other side. Its not far—but we shall see. They appear to be making good use of space. It’s going to be luxury, really--A State Of The Art Ballpark.”
“What they (designers) have done really well is divide up The Family Room. By separating the babies, the toddlers—they get their own little space. The families get their own little space. Nobody is going to be bumping into each other or stepping on one another. The Locker Room—you just can’t speak enough about it. It’s unbelievable. The touches they have put in there are FIRST CLASS. The training facilities are so good; I don’t think anyone is going to want to come out for the game. They are so nice. (Laughing) No one is going to get out of that whirlpool or dry sauna.”
“But, it’s fan friendly also. The fans can look down from above to the indoor batting cages (from President's Club). What great advances we have made to make a State Of The Art Park like that. It really is very impressive. I can't wait to get there.”
With that--The Spring Training Chat With Jason Bergmann ended. But, he absolutely cracked up The African Queen and I immediately upon the conclusion. As is customary on Nats320--the interview subject needs to take a picture for the post. But when I began to take an individual shot of Jason--he protested: "What Is THIS!! Am I going to be in the picture by myself?" Our Number 57 is well aware of our trademark. Sohna immediately piped up: "I will take a picture with you." Problem thus solved. Protest quickly nullified and a crisis averted--all was well again. We all started laughing.
Jason Bergmann is very attuned to the many concerns surrounding Our Washington Nationals. He stays on top of the issues. Sohna and I enjoy the fact that he cares about Our Team--both on and off the field of play. You don't see that too often in this day and age of professional athletes.