Mariners Insider Blog

Watchpoints: Bergman seeks to continue career turnaround

Can Christian Bergman hold a spot in the Mariners’ rotation once their injured starting pitchers return?
Can Christian Bergman hold a spot in the Mariners’ rotation once their injured starting pitchers return? AP

So what’s enabled veteran right-hander Christian Bergman to reset his career this year after being plucked off the free-agent scrap heap by the Mariners in the offseason?

"I can’t really give you a definitive answer there," he said. "I made some small mechanical adjustments that help me to stay on top of the ball. But nothing really drastic."

Bergman, 29, enters Thursday’s series finale against Minnesota with three ultra-quality starts in his last four outings. He is 3-2 with a 4.36 ERA but, take away one disastrous inning at Washington, and his ERA drops to 2.25.

Yes, that’s playing with numbers, but it underscores Bergman’s increasingly strong case to remain in the rotation once the Mariners begin to get injured starters back from the disabled list over the next month.

Bergman’s career was teetering last winter when he became a free agent after going 7-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 55 games, including 15 starts, over the three previous seasons at Colorado.

The Mariners signed Bergman to a minor-league deal on Dec. 1. It included an invitation to big-league camp, but he struggled in spring training — allowing eight runs and 14 hits in just six innings.

Bergman then found his form. He was 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Tacoma when summoned May 7 as a replacement part in an injury-depleted rotation.

"He’s dealing," general manager Jerry Dipoto said at the time. "The reason we picked him up is his command, his strike-throwing. In spring training, the stuff was blah, and the command was not great.

"He was just middle-of-the-plate, and he was behind 2-0, 2-1. And now you’re throwing below-average stuff in the middle of the plate. That’s not great. What he’s doing now is, instead of hitting the middle of the plate, he’s carving."

That’s continued since Bergman reached the big leagues — with the exception of one eight-run inning in Washington.

Other watchpoints:

***The Twins are starting right-hander Kyle Gibson (2-4 with a 7.23 ERA) in the series finale. The game starts at 7:10 p.m. and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.

***Bergman has never faced the Twins. The only current Minnesota player to face him in a major-league game is Elhire Adrianza, who was 1-for-3 in a 2014 game while playing for the Giants.

***Gibson is 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA in six career starts against the Mariners, including 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA in three starts at Safeco Field.

***Robinson Cano is 6-for-20 with five RBIs in his career against Gibson. Kyle Seager is 4-for-15 with three walks. Jarrod Dyson is 3-for-13.

***The Mariners have won a season-high five in a row and nine of their last 10. They are back to .500 (30-30) for the first time since May 10. They have not been over .500 this season.

***Designated hitter Nelson Cruz didn’t play Wednesday because of a strained right calf muscle and remains questionable. He leads the Mariners with 14 home runs and is tied for the American League lead with 46 RBIs.

***Minnesota third baseman Miguel Sano also has 46 RBIs after hitting a three-run homer in Wednesday’s game. He is 15-for-43 (.349) with six homers in 12 career games against the Mariners.

***Mike Zunino hit two homers in three at-bats Wednesday, including a two-run walk-off shot. He is 14-for-30 (.467) in his last eight games with four doubles and three homers and 14 RBIs.

***Ben Gamel carries a 10-game hitting streak into Thursday. He is batting .410 (16-for-39) in that span, which raised his overall average to .319 in 37 games since his April 26 recall from Tacoma.

***Twins first baseman Joe Mauer, a three-time batting champion, is batting .341 (31-for-91) in 22 games since May 9. His overall average is up to .289 after a slow start.

TIME CAPSULE

It was five years ago Thursday — June 8, 2012 — that six pitchers combined on a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Safeco Field. It tied a major-league record for the most pitchers to take part in a combined no-hitter.

Kevin Millwood pitched the first six innings before Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen combined in working the final three innings.

Kyle Seager drove in the only run with a two-out single in the seventh inning against Scott Elbert, which scored Ichiro Suzuki from second base. Pryor got the victory. Wilhelmsen got the final three outs for the save.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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