Considering that he has just been demoted to the minors, it might seem strange to now be comparing struggling Baltimore Orioles pitcher Brad Bergesen with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. However, it is often forgotten that like Bergesen, after early success Palmer also struggled before eventually becoming the best pitcher in Orioles history.
In 1966, the 20-year-old Palmer won 16 games and pitched a shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Yet by 1968, Palmer ‘s future was in question due to arm troubles. He pitched only 49 innings in the majors in 1967 and didn’t appear for the Orioles the following season.
Fortunately for Palmer and the Orioles, the tall right-hander was able to regain his form in 1969 and won 16 games as Baltimore reached the World Series. In 1970, Palmer began a string where he won 20 or more games in eight of nine seasons and captured three Cy Young Awards.
Though Bergesen’s first period of success in Baltimore didn’t include a World Series title, he was without question one of the best rookie pitchers in the game during 2009 and the most promising among a cast of rookie pitchers for the Orioles.
As a 23-year-old rookie, Bergesen won his major league debut against the Chicago White Sox and registered a 7-5 record and 3.43 ERA in 19 starts for the Orioles.
He appeared poised for a strong final two months of the season when he was struck on the shin by a line drive during a victory over the Kansas City Royals on July 30th.
Though initial thoughts were that he could pitch again in 2009, Bergesen was eventually shelved for the year.
Entering 2010, expectations were that Bergesen was completely recovered from his fluke injury and ready to continue his ascension to the top of the Orioles rotation.
Unfortunately for Bergesen and the Orioles, the young right-hander has struggled so far in 2010.
After allowing 14 earned runs in 10 innings during his first three starts of 2010, Bergesen was sent down to Norfolk where he won his only start before returning to the majors.
He looked strong in winning his first three starts after returning to Baltimore, but after continuing to struggle, Bergesen was moved to the bullpen and then again sent down to the minors.
Speaking about Bergesen and his only struggles as a young pitcher during a recent Orioles’ broadcast, Palmer said that giving Bergesen time at the minor league level to regain his confidence should be just the tonic for the young pitcher.
Instead of trying to regain his form coming out of the Orioles’ bullpen, Bergesen will be able to spend the next couple weeks going through his normal routine as a starting pitcher.
If he is able to regain his previous confidence and form, then Bergesen can again be part of what the Orioles believe is a talented young stable of starting pitchers.
Many have compared the talent of today’s Orioles pitchers to that of the late 1960s when Palmer joined Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally to give Baltimore one of the best staffs in baseball history.
Only time will tell if this group of hurlers can repeat the history of the past, but Oriole fans are hopeful that Bergesen can recover from his struggles and at the very least regain the form he illustrated in 2009.