The fun part of doing these random D-Backs stories is that, sometimes, I have absolutely no idea who I am writing about and most of the times the stories I encounter after endless searching on the internet are better than I had expected.
People sometimes ask me (actually, they never do, but it sounds better this way for the article) how I get to choose these random players. At times I see an interesting chat, but most of the times I see a name passing by while reading or while searching on the Internet and decide to stick to it or not. In that case it is pretty random.
However, I don’t think I have never chosen someone as randomly as today’s former D-Back, Brad Bergesen, because I just scrolled over an alphabetical list of all D-Backs and thought the name sounded Steven Seagal like and therefore terrific.
Not randomly chosen.
Brad Bergesen was quite the prospect when he was drafted in the 4th round by Baltimore in the 2004 draft. A two-way player for Foothill HS in Pleasanton, California (and apparently a team mate of Giants’ Brandon Crawford while there) he was committed as a pitcher to the University of San Diego after giving up just a handful of runs in over more than 40 innings. Scouts praised his command and plus pitches, with room for more muscle to add some velo to his low 90s fastball. He is ranked in the top 100 of 2004 high school pitchers.
“Brad is doing all the little things to be successful. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s going to put on another 10 or 15 pounds of muscle. He’s just going to throw harder and harder. Plus he’s got great movement and an excellent changeup. I’ve never coached a better big-game pitcher,” Scavone said. “He wants the ball in big spots, yet he always stays calm. Character-wise he’s never varied.” - Bergesen’s coach at Foothill High in an interview in 2004
The Californian signs for a bit over $300,000 with the Orioles.
“You know, it happened so quick. I had about six teams calling me all at once, and all of a sudden I see my name picked by the Orioles, and that was it. I kind of had an idea that they were interested, but you never know for sure until you’re taken.” - Brad Bergesen on being drafted by the Orioles in the 2004 draft in a 2008 Q&A on the Washington Post
But Bergesen soon encounters illness and is hampered that way in his development. He pitches for 3 consecutive seasons at various Class A levels in an effort to build up strenght again.
“You always hear when you’re a kid that you should take care of your body, eat right and get your rest,” he said. “And when you’re a kid, it goes in one ear and out the other. But that really hit me once I got up here.” - Bergesen in 2007 on getting back from a mononucleosis
Come 2008 he impresses for the Bowie Baysox in AA and earns the minor league pitcher of the year award in the Orioles farm system. His stock rises a bit, Minor Ball ranks him within the top 20 of Baltimore’s prospects with a C+ grade. He has a fine Spring Training in 2009. The Orioles haven’t forgotten that performance because once one of their starters, Alfredo Simon, hits the IL just a few games into the season, they don’t call up Jake Arrieta or Chris Tillmann, but decide to go with a less heralded prospect: Brad Bergesen will make his MLB debut with Baltimore.
“Bergesen doesn’t try to overpower hitters, as evidenced by his mere 87 K’s in 165 1/3 innings last season. Instead, he succeeds by mixing his pitches, changing speeds, hitting his spots and trusting his defense. The 6-foot-2, 205 pounder also relies on impeccable control - he issued just 33 walks last season after allowing just 26 free passes in 2007.” - 2009 article in the Washington Post on Brad Bergesen
Bergesen makes his debut on April 22, 2009, in a game against the Chicago White Sox and gives the somewhat sceptic fans a bit more than what they had hoped for: a win.
“The Orioles knew they were getting a control pitcher when they called up Bergesen. In fact, he was ranked as the pitcher with the best control in the entire system by Baseball America this past year. Thank God someone finally came through. The Orioles have seen their fair share of promising pitching prospects going down in flames in the past years, which has led to speculation that they’re potentially promoting pitchers before they’re ready.” - article on bleacherreport in 2009 on Bergesen’s debut
In the following appearances until the end of May Bergesen doesn’t impress that much and his biggest strength seems not much more than providing innings. But in June he somehow switches the button and is able to keep hitters better in check. His pitching performance trends upwards until he takes a comebacker of his shin in a game against the Royals at the end of July. Inspection doesn’t reveal any bone damage but Bergesen isn’t able to return to the mound in the 2009 season and sees the opportunity of a nomination in the Rookie of the year award passing by.
Bergesen returns for the 2010 season, but already from the start of the season something seems off. Despite limiting the walks, he isn’t able to punch enough batters out and MLB hitters are getting better contact on his pitches. In 2011 it is more of the same and in 2012 he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster no more and is assigned to Triple A. In May 2012 the pitcher is designated for assignment for the first time in his career. He makes it through waivers, but the second time the Orioles try to pass him through waivers, a day after being called up, the Diamondbacks bite.
From an Oriole to a Snake.
The Diamondbacks claim Brad Bergesen off waivers from the Orioles on July 20 and two days later he is added to the roster while the struggling Bryan Shaw is optioned to AAA.
“With Josh Collmenter moving back in to the rotation, Arizona seemed to be in need of a long reliever, and Bergesen probably fits that role better than the other available candidates, e.g. Craig Breslow or Mike Zagurski.” - Jim McLennan in 2012 on the AZSnakePit on Bergesen’s callup
Obviously, not only the long relief profile is interesting, but also the remaining option. Bergesen is shuffled up and down between Reno and Phoenix multiple times during what remains of the 2012 season. He looks to have been the right man at the right time available and is being used to provide innings in, mostly, low leverage situations, with the team most of the times in a hopeless situation and on their way to a loss.
Bergesen performs well in that role, although hardly anyone will remember him for it. He provides almost 30 innings in 19 games, pitching to a respectable 3.64 ERA. Before the year is over, Bergesen is released by the Diamondbacks.
The Snake becomes a Dragon and ends up a BlueClaw.
Immediately after being released (or “sold” as some outlets say) Bergesen signs for the Chunichi Dragons in the Japanese NPB. Still only 27 years old Bergesen pitches a fine, but not spectacular 2013 season. An infected nail limits him to 58 innings in Japan. He becomes a free agent and apparently decides to take the 2014 season off. Or just isn’t able to find a new team.
Perhaps it was a bit of both and in 2015 he teams up with York Revolution in the Independent Leagues. But soon disaster strucks and the California native needs to undergo TJ surgery. 18 months later he desperately tries to come back and pitches in the independent leagues again and tries his luck in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues, but all without success. After a brief adventure in the 2017-18 LVBP for the Tiburones (Sharks) de La Guaira he decides to call it quits.
But Bergesen isn’t without a job or without baseball for long as he is almost immediately offered a job in the Phillies’ organisation to become pitching coach for their Class A affiliate. Four years later, in 2022, he is still with the Phillies, currently pitching coach for the Jersey Shore BlueClaws.
Once again, as so often in this series with former players, you can take the man out of baseball, but you actually cannot take the man out of baseball at all.