For a guy who understandably could be a little gun-shy after giving up long ball after long ball in the thin air of Colorado, Christian Bergman is relatively chilled out.
And right now, he’s in total control of his pitching game for the Tacoma Rainiers.
Off to the best start of his professional career, the 28-year-old California native is one of two starting pitchers in the Pacific Coast League who will end April with a perfect 4-0 record.
Bergman has a 1.96 earned-run average, best of any Tacoma starter. And he has struck out 20 hitters in 23 innings pitched.
On Thursday, he picked up his fourth win by tossing five scoreless innings in a rain-shorted 4-0 win over Sacramento.
“I penciled him in as a bullpen guy, so giving him the ball and letting him start, he has surprised me,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “I didn’t know how deep he’d go in games.
“The more I get to know him, and talk to him on the days he doesn’t pitch, I am learning the guy really knows how to attack hitters. He looks for weaknesses to get them to swing. That is pitching.”
The right-hander said working with new pitching coach Lance Painter, he has not done anything drastic to his mechanics. The only tweak he’s made has been getting more hip turn in his wind-up.
“I’ve felt good with that, and the results have been there,” Bergman said. “No need to overthink things.”
With the way Rainiers pitchers are coming and going, it is safe to assume Bergman will have his chance with the Mariners, Listach said.
“Probably sooner rather than later with the way he is attacking hitters,” Listach said.
The question is in what role?
In the minor leagues with the Rockies, Bergman has primarily been a starting pitcher (107 starts in 116 career games), totaling 44 wins in 660 career innings (3.57 ERA).
When he came up to the big leagues, Bergman made 10 starts accumulating a 3-5 record with a 5.93 ERA.
But over the next two years, 45 of his next 50 major league appearances he made were out of the bullpen.
Overall with the Rockies, Bergman has surrendered 24 home runs in 148 career innings.
“It is very difficult to do both,” Bergman said. “I am not saying it cannot be done, but the difference in the teams, and your mentality going into the game changes every time.”
If he goes to Seattle, it would likely be in a long relief role, Listach said.
As far as the groove the Rainiers’ starting staff is in now — take away two starts by relievers, seven starters sport a combined 2.83 ERA through Sunday, which is tops in the Pacific Coast League.
“A lot of us are new to the organization. You can get a little bit of a feel in spring training on what guys can do, and how they do it. Until you see it in a game atmosphere, you don’t see what they do well,” Bergman said.
“All the guys have done a really good job. We’ve just pounded the strike zone, stayed in good counts and let the rest of it happen.”
HESTON MOVES TO 2-0
Chris Heston outdueled his former club’s top prospect Tyler Beede by throwing five-plus scoreless innings, and Tacoma won its ninth game in a row at home with a 2-0 victory Sunday afternoon over Sacramento.
Mike Freeman’s RBI single in the first inning off Beede proved to be the winning run.
Tacoma had to survive a wild ninth inning. After Dan Altavilla gave up a single and walked two consecutive batters with two outs, Mark Lowe came in and struck out Juan Ciriaco on a full-count slider to end the game.
Recently-demoted outfielder Leonys Martin had his best game Sunday since joining Tacoma with three hits. … Freeman’s first-inning single extended his hitting streak to five games, longest on the team. He was awarded the RBI late in the game after an official scoring review. Initially, it was scored as a single, error and unearned run to Beede.
The Rainiers and Sacramento conclude their five-game series Monday at 6:05 p.m. Right-hander Rob Whalen (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his debut for Tacoma. Joan Gregorio (1-2, 2.42) pitches for the River Cats.