Friday, September 19, 2008

Jason Bergmann ESPN Zone

The Second To Last ESPN Zone Lunch Time Meet & Greet of 2008 with a player/official for Our Washington Nationals took place this past Wednesday at the downtown DC Restaurant. Pitcher Jason Bergmann was the guest along side regular host--Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes. For nearly 40 minutes--Our Number 57 keep the crowd of about 30 to 40 fans interested with his well thought out and entertaining answers and responses to questions. Jason Bergmann is a good student of the game and his knowledge may well take him a long way in Professional Baseball--after his still young and burgeoning career ends. As Charlie mentioned during this event--Jason Bergmann is a good analyst of Baseball.

The transcript is so long--I am going to split this post into two separate pieces. And with Our General Manager Jim Bowden and Assistant General Manager Mike Rizzo appearing at the final ESPN Get Together this afternoon--Part Two might come out of order. So, bare with me. There is just so much time in the day right now.

But Jason Bergmann is mighty interesting to hear speak. Here we go with Part One of Jason Bergmann at The ESPN Zone this past Wednesday, September 17th--2008.

Charlie: That was a fun game to watch last night (Tuesday Night’s 1-0 Game against The Mets). For us upstairs (in the broadcast booth) it was. I love low scoring games where every pitch means something, the suspense of it. It was a playoff atmosphere type game.

“Absolutely, and playing a great team like The Mets. And it’s not just last night, but the night before when (John) Lannan went out and threw seven straight innings and really set the tone for this series.”

Charlie: That’s a tough lineup, as you know. You have faced them, you pitched one of your best starts of the year back in April against The Mets in New York and The Nationals won that game 1-0. And the man who may have saved the game yesterday with a play in left field, was also a big part of your win in New York. Willie Harris made that diving catch down the leftfield line.

“It seems like every time out there, he makes a great play. He’s really a key to our defense and Willie is a tremendous player. He’s has gained the respect of everyone in our clubhouse this year.”

Charlie: “What was that like following that game from the dugout last night, or from the bullpen?

“Seeing what Odalis Perez was doing to these guys, he obviously was watching what Lannan did with the game plan the night before. John did such a terrific game against these guys. He really made an adjustment after his last start, Odalis as well. When you face a team like The Mets and are able to come back and make an adjustment like that—and have a great game—as each of them did—that’s really a success story.”

Charlie: It really seemed like Odalis heeded his own advice. He told us he talked to John the day before and said, you know what, if your change up is good, throw it as much as you can because that’s the way you beat these guys.

“That’s something a lot of starting pitchers, Tim Redding, myself, (Collin) Balester have told John Lannan all year. The lefty, lefty changeup is one of the best pitches in baseball. It’s one of the toughest pitches for a hitter to pick up. I was glad he started to throw it. It adds another dimension to his pitching stock and can really help him in his long-term future. He’s so young now that if he can add that (pitch) in early, you don’t know what might happen. He might turn into a Johan Santana type pitcher—one who uses that changeup a lot to both right and lefties.”

Charlie: And Odalis had a great one (change up) last night. The one thing we saw these past two games by The Mets Hitters were a lot of swing and misses.

“Absolutely, especially with the lefties. I was surprised The Mets put so many lefties in against our lefties. But, I am sure it’s due to the success they had last week. Like I said, our guys went in and Odalis was able to watch what Atlanta did (to The Mets). And Atlanta was able to make adjustments from what he did the week before and really come out with two really great games that really set the tone for the next two weeks.”

Charlie: This sounds a lot like a radio show. Is he good or what? Jason, you recently moved to the bullpen. In the last couple of weeks, Shairon Martis pitching tonight is in the spot you were in. Tell us a little bit about going to the bullpen now to finish the year. I know you pitched some great games. I was looking at your starts today. You had so many games, you look at your hits total to innings pitched and it’s a great ratio. You had so many fewer hits than innings pitched. You had all those games where you pitched and the team couldn’t score. And then when you don’t pitch well, things are magnified because your record doesn’t reflect how well you pitched much of this season.

“My record this year is kind of unfortunate. I wish I were 11-2 instead of 2-11. It doesn’t show well. But I feel there are a lot of games in there where I pitched well. There are a lot of games where I pitched well enough where we could have won the game. Yeah, my losses are magnified because some of those losses are not good ones. I am disappointed in myself about those. That’s something I can make an improvement on. Certainly, every pitcher likes to think they get 30 starts. They get five excellent starts. I think I got five pretty good starts. And when a pitcher has five bad starts, unfortunately, my five bad starts have been bad starts. It’s the ones in between that really define you as a pitcher. I am really working on making those starts the ones I look to improve. You are going to have your bad one. You are going to have your really good ones. It’s the ones in between where you are really going to make your improvements. And if you can make those in between ones lean toward the better half of your starts, that’s where the great pitchers become exceptional and good pitchers become great. And that is what I am looking to do.”

Question from audience: Jason, I was at one of your great starts in Cincinnati that ended up being a loss on your record, because there was no run support at all and that has happened a lot. I was wondering whether you see yourself as a starter in the future—it sounds like you do. And do you feel differently on the starts that are not so good—that you can pin point what went wrong to be more consistent? Or just a matter of just getting out there and just doing it?

“The days that I feel really good sometimes it backfires. Days where I feel really bad, sometimes that’s a really good thing. There is one game I remember where I felt physically ill and it was one of my best starts of the year. Sometimes when you are physically ill, it helps you because you concentrate less on the game—which is actually sometimes a good thing. Because if you concentrate too much on the game, as I tend to do—I am a big time competitor, really intense, maybe my body language doesn’t show it. I try to keep it as even as possible, because I use to be a real feisty pitcher. I use to show my emotions a lot. I was told early in my minor league days, that is really not a good thing. You want to be poised, under control. But sometimes, I have so much energy and so much desire to win—I try to so hard that I am acting against myself. And that’s happened in the past by trying to throw the ball harder and harder. What I am doing is messing up my own mechanics and causing my fastball to rise and run off. It’s why I started walking some people. And that’s stuff I am really disappointed in myself on. But the stuff I really need to do, as a young pitcher in the majors, is to make the adjustment, keep my emotions in check, both inside and out. And the more I do that, the more I can become a better pitcher in the long run. I do see myself as a starter. I think I have proven that I have enough good starts with this team. With our team this year, we had such high expectations early on. We were a big time projectible team. We had Wily Mo (Pena). (Austin) Kearns was due for a good year. Guys like Nick (Johnson) were finally healthy. And Lastings (Milledge) came on board and he was a huge projection. Unfortunately, the injury bug sat with our team and has finally gone away a little bit. Losing a guy like Wily Mo, who can potentially hit 40 Home Runs; Kearns who is bothered by his shoulder and his foot now. He has potential. Milledge was hurt for a little while. We have had every one of our starters hurt. That has hurt the run production and made us call upon guys who may not have been ready for everyday service time to come out and perform. We’ve lost guys like Felipe (Lopez) and Paul LoDuca who were expected to do stuff. And when there are so many injuries and things take a wrong turn—it takes it toll on the whole team. We were really expecting to do some good things. You are seeing the guys playing now, that are playing hard, 26 games behind first place (in the standings). They are playing very hard and intense baseball. That really characterizes the heart of this team. Guys who are injured are not here, but guys who are here—really want to be here.”

Charlie: You could go on and on—Dmitri (Young), Nick Johnson, (Ryan) Zimmerman missed all that time with the shoulder and then got hit with a pitch. Injuries certainly have derailed a lot of what the plans were for this team for this year.

“Yes, I am sure in the beginning of this year we were not expecting our infield to be Aaron Boone, Anderson Hernandez, (Cristian) Guzman and Kory Casto at third base. That’s not what we envisioned. But I think the guys who are there, the guys we have right now are playing for positions next year. And guys like Zimmerman are getting healthy, Guzman is healthy, (Jesus) Flores will be there next year, our starting catcher. Everyone else will be healthy. Kearns will be healthy for next year. Wily Mo’s status—he will probably be ready. Just look at all the competition that has been opened up for next year based on this year’s staff?”

Charlie: And if Elijah Dukes can be on the field for the whole year—WOW!!—Look at that production.

“Absolutely, you look back at the trades Jim (Bowden) made for the outfield, bringing over Milledge and Dukes. I looked at the scoreboard yesterday—Elijah Dukes production has been equal to Ryan Church. So, when you talk about that trade, we acquired Elijah Dukes and Milledge at about the same time we gave up Church and (Brian) Schneider—but Dukes has actually matched production of Church.”

Charlie: If you project Dukes, who has only played in 70 some games, and multiply by two or two and one half—you are talking about a guy who will hit 30 or 35 Home Runs and is tremendous in the outfield. A great throwing arm.

Question: You were talking about your emotions. What do you think has been harder for you this year? The physical fatigue or mental fatigue—as the season wore on—especially toward the end?

“I think a little of both. As a pitcher, especially going through the hard times in June and early July, with all the injuries. It seemed like every other game a guy was going down. Zimmerman goes down, then we had Milledge go down, and then Dukes. What’s going on!!? Hold on!! And then for me, I want to go out there and do the very best I can. I know I have faced Atlanta a bunch of times. I have faced New York a bunch of times and Philly a bunch of times. To go out there and know I can do the job and miss my spot by just enough to get hit hard is something I hate. I go out there for fielding early every day—leaving my wife home with the baby all day long. I am out there early every day. I am out there sweating at 2PM until game time when I am not pitching—and then some. So, I look to get better every time I go out there and every time I set foot in the stadium.”

Question: With The Potomac Nationals winning The Carolina League Championship this year and the future looking good, how excited are you about the future of this franchise?

“I think this franchise is going in the right direction. You talk about The Potomac Nationals, but you can’t forget about The GCL (Gulf Coast League) Nationals did get to the championship and unfortunately lost—but they are producing some talent—at the lowest level of the organization. Just see what AA is going to be like next year and what Low A (Hagerstown) is going to be like next year and Potomac. If you are talking about building from the bottom up, then they (The Washington Nationals) have done just that. They have built from the bottom, the very bottom. The DSL team did well in The Dominican League. So, you are talking about guys that might be three years away, but think about what those guys are going to be like in three years and the lineup you are going to be able to put out there (on The Major League Field).”

Charlie: And I guess there are a lot of decisions, players on this club are under team control or arbitration eligible. Tim Redding is still one of them, what a veteran leader he turned out to be. He’s made the most starts on the staff and still has the chance for a career high in wins for him.

“I think, more than anything, to be able to be a team leader you need to be friendly with the people you need to lead. They need to have your respect as much as your trust and be willing to open up and listen to that person. Tim’s been awesome for everybody. He’s been able to come up at any point in the game and say: ‘you need to relax. You just need to throw your game.’ And he’s been able to do that with myself, Lannan, Balester. There are times in every game when he will come up—just for nothing—and kind of hit you in the leg, not say a word. You know that he is behind you, he’s got good things to say. He’s a smart guy. He’s been up and down. He had high times and low times and a guy like that someone can really learn a lot from.”

Charlie: Sounds like a pitching coach in a player’s uniform.

“Yes. When you have such a young staff and I don’t want to take credit away from Odalis. But Redding does come up to you a lot. He does say things in a key situation. I know that Lannan leans on him a lot. But, when you are missing guys like (Shawn) Hill, who a lot of guys turned to last year and (Matt) Chico and guys like that—new guys. Redding has been able to step up and talk to Balester or Lannan and just say: ‘Hey, your changeup is your best pitch today. Why are you not throwing it?’ Or, ‘Your backdoor slider has been your ace in the hole—you need to keep throwing that---keep going after those guys.’ He’s been able to do that. He’s really been as much a friend than a mentor to a lot of the guys.”

Charlie: I remember a game John Lannan had earlier this year—probably in the month of May. It was maybe his worst start of the year against, I think, The Pirates at home. He was out of the game in the 4th inning. Usually you are in the dugout until the inning ends and then you go on up to the clubhouse. For a lot of guys that’s it—they are done. They spend the rest of the game watching tape or are in the clubhouse, in the training room, whatever. John Lannan got iced down and he was right back in the dugout. And I said to him the next day—that was pretty impressive. He told me there was nothing for him to learn (in the clubhouse) and I learn more watching the game and talking about it with the other pitchers about what they might have seen. In that case Tim Redding told him it was just a bad day—forget about it and just move on.

“Like I said, bad days do happen. You are going against the other best players in the sport. And you also have to think about it this way. We have a lot of young players, a lot of rookies, a lot of second year, third year or fourth year players. Guys can learn a lot from seeing other guys play. You talk about a guy like Nick Johnson, who may not be the vocal team leader, but you watch the guy play and you can learn a lot from him. A guy like John Lannan might get more out of watching someone come out of the bullpen. How he works a hitter. And then the next time he goes out he can do exactly what he did against The Mets. Have a bad game then come back and rebound with a great game.”

Charlie: I was also talking to Wil Nieves before the game yesterday. Wil hasn’t had a ton of Big League Experience, but he’s been around the game for a long time at the age of 30. He likes to call inside pitches. You can’t have success against a team, like The Mets, if you pitch away, away, and away. And a lot of guys who come up from the minor leagues, like Marco Estrada say: ‘Wow, I am not use to pitching inside like that! He (Nieves) keeps calling it and I am not in a position where I can shake him off.’ They are more afraid to pitch inside, not of fear of hitting someone, but if you don’t get in there enough, you tend to throw the ball over the plate more and get hurt that way.

“Absolutely, and that is why we have game plans. Game Plans are set before any series by (Randy) St. Claire (Pitching coach), advanced scouting and the catchers. They all go over this beforehand with the pitchers before any game. Pitching inside to a team like The Mets—you have guys who are leaning in out over the plate—more so now than ever before. If you play against The Phillies, the first four batters in The Phillies Lineup are standing on the plate. To throw the ball down the middle, inside to them, on the inside corner—they can’t hit. And if they do—they are going to pull it foul—which is impossible to hit. So, to be able to pitch inside now and have confidence in going inside, having Wil Nieves keep calling those pitches—young guys really learn a lot from that. If they can then establish the inside corner, it makes the breaking pitches and the outside fastball much more effective.”

Charlie: And it is harder to do when the guy is on the plate. You pitch away, you miss away, and you are usually not going to get hurt. If you are trying to pitch in, and you don’t have great command that day, and you don’t get far enough in—then you are over the plate and then that is trouble.

“That’s a lot of trouble. They (Big League Hitters) don’t miss here. They don’t miss. So, you have to make your pitches. If you are going to miss in, you have to miss off the plate. Or, if you miss away, you make sure it’s far enough that if you leave it over the plate, their eye angle has changed and they don’t hit the fastball.”

Charlie: Speaking of tonight’s pitcher, Shairon Martis, in his first two starts he seems to pitch at the bottom of the zone—just above the knees. And when he misses, he misses low—which is very good.

“Yeah, he’s got great stuff. If you happen to watch the game versus The Marlins, he’s got a very good changeup. He’s got a good slider and his fastball's got enough pop on it to blow it right past guys. And a good change up.”

You have to give Jason Bergmann credit--he is very open with his commentary. He's not intimated by questions. A very straight forward young man. Part two of this ESPN Zone Meet & Greet with Our Number 57 will continue along this same interesting path.

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