Bergmann Hopes Third Stint's the Charm This Year

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 27 -- Jason Bergmann arrived in the visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium sporting some new facial hair at the bottom of his chin -- "a rally beard," he joked -- as well as some urgency about his situation. The Washington Nationals right-hander pitched brilliantly for the first six weeks of the season, went on the disabled list, pitched poorly upon his return, then went back on the DL.

Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bergmann will make his first start in just more than a month after recovering from a hamstring injury. He understands the importance of the final month of the season.

"I feel like I'm throwing the ball now as well as I have all season," Bergmann said. "I need to make people see that I'm a good enough pitcher to be here. . . . I definitely want to be part of this team, and in order to do that, I need to prove to people that I belong here, so I need to pitch here."

When Bergmann first went on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow in May, he had posted a 2.76 ERA with a league-leading .162 opponents' batting average through his first eight starts. He returned June 26 but wasn't even close to the same pitcher, posting a 7.96 ERA and allowing opponents to hit .327. In his six starts during that stretch, he completed six innings just once.

The difference?

"The inability to pitch ahead and throw strike one," Manager Manny Acta said. "The second time, when he came back, he wasn't over-throwing all over the place, but his ability to throw strike one wasn't the same as when he had that great run."

Bergmann is coming off a successful three-start rehabilitation stint at Class AAA Columbus, and he said he is as confident in his arsenal as he has been this year. But with some young pitchers developing more quickly than expected, Bergmann's place in the 2008 rotation is not yet secure.

"They always tell you to finish strong," he said, "so people remember the last thing you do."

Rest for the Weary Lopez

Acta said he would like to get shortstop Felipe Lopez some rest over the final month of the season. After starting Monday, Lopez had played in 125 of the Nationals' 132 games and was struggling at the plate, hitting .239 with a .304 on-base percentage.

"He's played almost every inning," Acta said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company