"I love the fans and I love the game."
With his impressive first taste of the big leagues in 2005, Jason Bergmann made quite a statement heading into 2006. The hard throwing reliever could become a mainstay in the Washington bullpen as early as next spring, and to speak about that and much more, Bergmann joined us for an in depth Q&A session. (Free Preview!)
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CapitolDugout.com: First, Jason, what can you tell us about your repertoire?
Jason Bergmann: My repertoire includes four pitches. I have a fastball, slider, curveball, and a changeup. My fastball has always been my best pitch, topping out at 97 MPH this year. Generally, I will be from 90-94 MPH. I have only been throwing a slider for two years. It was a pitch I toyed with while I was on the DL in July of 2003. I brought it to Spring Training 2004 and found it to be a very valuable asset. It is my most accurate breaking ball and ranges from 82-87 MPH. The curve was my out pitch for most of 2005 in the minors. It is a 12-6 curve at around 75 MPH. Once in the major leagues, I found it more difficult to throw. Whether it was because of the smaller stitches on the ball or overthrowing, I didn't find it until the very end of my major league campaign. The changeup has and always will be my fourth pitch. It was something I used mostly while starting and is difficult for me to locate.
CapitolDugout.com: How do you feel about your Major League stint? Do you feel that you made a strong statement and accurately showed what you were capable of?
Jason Bergmann: I was very fortunate and a little surprised at my call-up this year. I was fortunate to get out of AAA New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina and surprised to have been called up in general. I was pleased with my whole performance. I believe that once I got my first few outs and striking out the side in St. Louis, it was a lot more clear to that I could perform at that level. That's all the confidence I needed. I feel that my September showed I can get the job done given the opportunity and results are what count most.
CapitolDugout.com: What would you say have been the most important adjustments of your career?
Jason Bergmann: The most important adjustment has been locating more than one pitch. In college, I was lucky to get even one over the plate. Now, I can get three pitches over the plate. Especially at the major league level where mistakes are not missed, hitting spots is crucial.
CapitolDugout.com: What improvements are you looking to make heading into 2006?
Jason Bergmann: The two things that I feel that could be most improved on are walk totals and effectiveness against lefties. I have always been prone to walking too many batters and that cannot be tolerated, especially knowing how much Mr. [Frank] Robinson hates it. Getting righties out was not a big deal for me. They had 3 hits against me. However, I feel that in order to stick in the big leagues, allowing lefties to hit .355 is not going to work. I need to bear down more and make better pitches in those situations.
CapitolDugout.com: Going into spring training, do you feel that you have a strong chance to make the big league roster? And, will it be difficult for you to stay within yourself rather than try to impress too much?
Jason Bergmann: I can only be optimistic and say, yes, I have a chance to make the roster. That is my goal. I think that I pitched well enough to be considered, but I will not allow myself to be let down. Realistically, I know that I have options left and that they will use them as long as they can. I never back down on the mound and I don't plan on changing my approach, even in Spring Training. It is a tryout for me to make a permanent mark in this franchise and I will do everything I can in order to do so. The organization already knows what I have and what I can do, now it's time to just get the job done.
CapitolDugout.com: If you were a scout, how would you describe yourself as a pitcher?
Jason Bergmann: I'm a power pitcher who needs to concentrate on keeping all my pitches down. I have good mound presence and poise. Those are some things I've worked very hard on. I've pretty much been under the radar my whole career, but I kind of like that and I know I can do well at any level.
CapitolDugout.com: What is your strongest attribute as a pitcher?
Jason Bergmann: Mental toughness. In no way am I intimidated by anyone. My favorite moment this year was facing Andruw Jones for the first time and shaking off to throw a fastball. When he fouled it back, I shook back to a fastball. I like to go after people. I also have an easier time forgetting what has passed. This is a necessity for a reliever. Going into a new day with a new frame of mind and keeping lingering emotions at bay is the key.
CapitolDugout.com: What do you think is going to be the key to your success going forward in your career?
Jason Bergmann: Like I mentioned already, keeping walks at a minimum, ball in the park, and being able to get both righties and lefties out are instrumental in making a lasting career.
CapitolDugout.com: If you had to pick out a turning point in your career, what would it be?
Jason Bergmann: Getting moved from the starting rotation in low A ball to a reliever in High A. This move allowed me to really bear down for three hitters and use whatever I had for a much shorter duration. It also allowed me to become more of a power pitcher and utilize my breaking pitches more often. I basically became more comfortable out the bullpen. Less preparation and get up and go. I like that.
CapitolDugout.com: Which of your teammates in your minor league career have impressed you the most?
Jason Bergmann: In college at Rutgers, Bob Brownlie (AAA Iowa Cubs) was hitting 98 MPH and was the real deal. He won us a lot of big games. When I played with Vermont in 2002, Mike Hinckley was spectacular and nearly untouchable. Hinckley flat out dominated with an ERA of 1.20 or so. In Savannah 2003, Larry Broadway hit the ball farther than I've ever seen. With Brevard in 2004, Frank Diaz was the man in the outfield. I can't remember how many people he threw out from right field. This past year, some guys that you knew were something special were Dee Haynes, Rich Rundles, Rick Short, and Brandon Watson. I was in Harrisburg when Haynes was hitting .420 with 10 homers and 30 RBI. Rundles was always a guy who went real deep in games and always kept his pitch count down. He's the ultimate ground ball pitcher. He's a lefty too, which we really need. Every game was a sure bet that both Watson and Short would go at least 2-3 with a double. It was amazing how well they played in AAA.
CapitolDugout.com: Being around big league pitchers this season, was there anything significant you were able to learn from them?
Jason Bergmann: Obviously, I learned about professionalism. The bullpen guys are a great crew, as well as Bobby Natal, who I was sad to hear left the team for his own reasons. The guys down there were also helpful and insightful. For instance, when I was experiencing problems getting my curve down, Mike Stanton jumped right in and offered all of his tips and tricks and my curve came back!
CapitolDugout.com: Being a reliever, what do you think allows you to be so effective out of that role? In your mind, does it take a special mentality?
Jason Bergmann: As I said earlier, it is a must to allow yourself room to forget past pitches, at bats, games, etc. Being able to get loose in a very short time also helps out. The ability to cope with throwing everyday, sometimes through soreness and minor aches and pains, is part of the job as well.
CapitolDugout.com: If you had to tell a Washington Nationals fan more about yourself, what would be the first thing you'd tell them?
Jason Bergmann: I love the fans and I love the game. I was so incredibly thrilled coming out before games and signing autographs because I remember sitting in those seats and yelling for my favorite players to come sign my stuff. I never got an autograph at a ballgame and I remember how disappointed I was. I try to make sure that I please as many fans as I possibly can. I say to them 'I love you guys. Thank you!'