Bergmann brings back sinker for '08
Right-hander spent winter tinkering pitch, expecting results
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann had another solid outing on Monday, giving up three runs -- two earned -- in 5 2/3 innings, in a 5-3 loss to the Tigers at Space Coast Stadium. He struck out four batters and walked two.
Bergmann continues to justify his spot in the Nationals' projected starting rotation. For the spring, Bergmann has a 2.70 ERA and he is expected to pitch his first regular-season game against the Phillies on April 3.
One of the reasons behind Bergmann's success this spring is the return of his sinker. Last season, Bergmann abandoned the pitch after walking six batters and giving up four runs against Diamondbacks on April 5. Seventy percent of his pitches in that fateful game were sinkers.
However, after playing Winter Ball this past offseason and using the pitch with success, he then decided to put it to try it again in Spring Training. Bergmann also realized he needed the pitch because he would no longer have spacious Robert F. Kennedy Stadium to help him whenever he gave up a deep flyout. He will now play in Nationals Park, which is expected to play more hitter friendly. Bergmann also wants to throw fewer pitches than he has in the past, and would like to be able to set up a double play, rather than hope for a flyout.
Now, I'm throwing 50 percent fastballs," Bergmann said. "I have a selected time when I throw the sinker, more so with runners on base. It's part of the game; it's part of learning. Last year, I didn't feel real confident in it. Now, I have more understanding of how my body is working with the sinker. I'm not trying to do too much with it. It's actually sinking."
Bergmann will make one more Spring Training start, and it will not be any ordinary game. He will become the first Major League pitcher to pitch at Nationals Park, as the Nats face the Orioles in their final exhibition game of the spring, this Saturday evening at 6:05 p.m. ET.
"It means a lot moving into a new park. It's so grand and beautiful," Bergmann said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.