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Your questions with Jason Bergmann

So Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann was kind enough to not only suggest that he would answer questions from Journal readers (he lurks here from time to time), but to say that he would take on whatever questions I sent him. I let him off easy this time, sending him only 15 of your questions even though he offered to answer them all. (Lotta dead time here at spring trainnig for the players, as you can see.)

I edited his answers very lightly and only for punctuation, etc. And I'm going to do something here that I don't do very often (if ever) in Journal posts. I'm going to continue the responses past the "jump", meaning you'll have to click beyond this screen to get the whole thing.

Nats host Cardinals today. The $.35/$.50-edition had a story today on hitting coach Lenny Harris, who's in a very important position. Also kind of an interesting notebook.

I'll let you chew on all this before another post with news and lineups, etc.

1. Still doing any substitute teaching in the offseason?
A. No, I have not been substituting since 2005-06 offseason. The only reason being that my substitute teaching certificate is in the state of New Jersey. I moved following the 2006 season to Pennsylvania and now have moved down south to Florida. I did teach for 3 years and had a lot of fun doing it. I would certainly do more of the sort once I am finished playing baseball.

2. How much effect did Jim Bowden's famous "pep talk" with you at the beginning of last season have?
A. Jim's pep talk was only a small part of it. I mean it is obvious to anyone that when they perfom badly that it is necessary to pick it up or else. Baseball is no different than any management or service job -- you perform badly and you get demoted, disciplined, or fired. I knew that my next start had to be better regardless of what was said. All he really said to me was, "I have every confidence in you, you are a promising young pitcher, but major league pitchers don't walk 6 people and throw 50 pitches in 1 inning." I think back on that one game versus Arizona and I think of what happened. I pitched much different that day for some reason. I don't heavily rely on a sinker but that day I threw about 80% sinkers not to mention the temperature was 30 something degrees. It was just a real bad game. Fortunately, I was able to turn it around. After all, Jim couldn't exactly throw the ball for me.

3. Jason: How does a MLB pitcher develop a good relationship with the umpires? Are there some guys who have better relationships than others? And if so, how does that play out in game action?
A. Developing a relationship with umpires is no different than one with any other person. If you are courteous and respectful, they will be as well. Umpires are people and are as unbiased as possible in their job. We cannot forget the human element that goes with their job and yes, they make mistakes. Do they try to? No. But, by no means are you to argue with them about something that frankly isn't going to change anyways. Umpires rarely reverse themselves. And really, arguing with them will just dig your hole deeper. I try to say, "Hello! It's a beautiful day for a game...." or " Thanks" each time he throws me the ball. Simple things like that help gain a little respect with them. I am a firm believer that a little will go a long way sometimes.

4. If you could change one thing about your pitching style what would it be?
A. I think my style of pitching is as normal as I can make it. I don't by any means want to become a sidearmer or a lefty. I think if I could maintain an easy, fluid delivery and keep my fingers on top of the ball EVERY TIME, that's what I would do. May I add that I try to do that anyways!

5. Please also complete this fan sentence as you would like to be remembered: "Jason Bergmann he's the Nationals pitcher who is/was famous for..."
A. I don't want to be famous! Baseball is a great game and I am just happy to be a part of it. It is a lot of fun to play for a living. I just want my family and friends to be proud of me no matter what. I would like to see a Nationals team I am part of do something big, a playoff seed or World Series! That would be cool. Those things are not done by 1 person. The whole team makes that possible.

6. Do you prefer to be called Jason, or Jay? I saw a few articles recently that called you Jay, which I had not seen before.
A. I try to go by Jason within the baseball world. My mom and wife can call me Jay (and my daughter better call me Daddy and nothing else!).

7. Can you share any of the other guys' nicknames? It seems like practically no one on this team has a nickname, or at least ones that the fans know. Thanks!
A. Nicknames, hmm, I am called "Bergy." Everyone knows Chad Cordero is "The Chief."

Kearns: AK
Zimmerman: Zim
Johnson: Slick
Dmitri: Meat Hook
Lopez: Flip or Lopey

Of course there are more, but we do have a lot of new guys through trades and free agency, so there will be more made up.

8. I was at the stadium last season for your near-no-hitter against the Braves. You dominated that line-up all afternoon. Did you feel any different coming out of warm-ups that day? Can you describe for us some of the things that you were feeling during that game? Did you ever allow yourself to think about the possibility of throwing a no-hitter or were you just playing pitch and catch with Schneider? Were you upset when McCann (I think) hit the HR to break up the no-no or were you simply back to the business of getting the W?
A. It really was just one of those days where I had pretty good stuff and was able to locate everything. That game was after a few that I had thrown pretty well and I was just in a 2-week zone. Schneider and I worked a great gameplan and everything seemed to work. The only way the gameplans work though is when you actually execute everything you want without missing which was the case that day. McCann always seems to get me. Its funny to me that he hit that because in pregame I told Schneider that I didn't want McCann to beat us pull side, let him hit the ball the other way. The pitch he hit was a slider down and in, a pretty good pitch actually, just maybe a little too much plate. I was just glad we won that game. I tell you I loved the energy of that game!

9. What's the best prank ever pulled on you by a teammate? what's the best prank you ever pulled on a teammate? what was your rookie "outfit?"
A. Ok, here is the juicy stuff I suppose. Pranks are synonymous with bullpen. There are a bunch of funny guys down there. On the last day of the season in 2005 I was under the impression that we had an 11 am start to the day. Unfortunately for me, I got a call at 10 am telling me to get there immediately. I was late. I ended up rushing and thank god it was a Sunday--no traffic. When I arrived 1 minute early, my shoelaces were all cut, my gloves were missing, my pants were stuffed with crushed ice, my hat was "eye-blacked," my jersey was shrinkwrapped among other things. I ran out to the field a few minutes late wearing non-cleats, my eye-blacked hat, the glove of an infielder, my freezing pants and the such. Embarrasing. My gloves somehow appeared shortly before gametime. Needless to say, I don't care what day it is, I make sure I am one of the first ones at the field everyday now.
Rookie outfits. I had to wear an outfit twice because my rookie standing stood with me for a while. My first time in 2005 I was requred to wear a size 14 cocktail dress. The theme that year was women's outfits. I had the cocktail dress, others had an African woman dress, a maternity long dress, sports bras and Speedo, stuff like that. To make things worse, we were dressed up in New York after our games there. Our clothes were prepacked with some equipment so there was nothing in our lockers except for the dresses. SO, after the game you "dress up" and walk out to the bus. At this time we flew out of a terminal at La Guardia. It also happened to be a public terminal. We walked through hordes of people with cameras and got on our plane. Upon landing in San Diego and getting to the hotel, we thought the night was finally over. However, our room keys were not with the rest. [Catcher Brian] Schneider told us we had to go to the front desk and get them. The front desk was on the other side of the hotel and through the hotel bar! Ugh. Slept well that night! My second rookie year I was cast to play the part of a Baby!! Yay!! Ugh. We had an off day before our trip guessed it, New York City! Our outfits were waiting in our lockers and we had to change into the costumes. I was a 6'4", 215lbs. baby with a bib and diaper and all. This time the veterans were a little more clever. The way we got to New York that year we had to take the train. As most of DC knows, that means Union Station to Penn Station! We toted our luggage through Union Station through all the onlookers and then again through Penn Station at rush hour. New York cops didn't even bat an eye! To pour salt in the rookie's wounds, we were forced off of the bus and had to walk 8 blocks to our hotel. In the hotel there was a huge convention and I think the President of Iran was expected then as well It was a long day to say the least! Looking back on it (and observing one year of not doing it) it really was a fun time.

10. Jason: Where are you going for beer after the games this season?
A. Truthfully, I don't really go out too much, if at all. I cut beer from my diet a few years back citing calories and saving a few bucks here and there. When the game is over, nearly every night it is pushing 11-11:30pm by the time I get home for dinner and to relax some. I value that time and being engaged last year and in a relationship I am very happy in, I didn't see the need to go out too much.

11. Jason, Whats your pre-game meal?
A. I don't really have a set meal, but I make sure I eat whatever it is I've been craving. I love my breakfast: eggs, sausage, waffle, pancakes, omelets, and usually a glass of chocolate milk. Pizza is a favorite. Short story, when I had that near no-hitter last year I actually ate Mexican food and had a little stomach pains through that afternoon before the game.

12. Jason, Do you have a favorite place to eat in the DC area?
A. I like going to the Capital Grille, Legal Seafood, and the Chart House. Really though those are special occasions because, like I said, we get out of the game at 11-11:30 when most establishments are closing for the night. I like my wife's cooking and she likes to cook -- good matchup!

13. At this level and point in your career, how much tinkering (such as fiddling w/grips, new pitches, etc.) are you doing?
A. If you aren't listening to someone such as Randy St. Claire and trying something to get better, you're not helping yourself out. I just changed my slider grip a week ago because I had a chat with Jose Rijo and he identified an error in my grip. Best thing you can do is listen. You don't have to do everything thats brought up to you just decide what you believe is right and what is best. Only you are throwing the ball. Advice does't get outs on its own, it needs to be applied.

14. I'm interested to know what you're thinking about when you're on the mound. Are you focused on the pitch you are trying to throw, the strategy of the next few pitches, the scouting report for the guy in the batter's box? How do you make up your mind about what you want to throw next? How much do you think about things like "Well, the curve's going good today, but this guy is a good breaking-ball hitter, so maybe I should go fastball," or are you just trying to make sure you throw a good pitch and leave all that thinking to the catcher?
A. Awesome question. I really get into a pretty good zone out there. I don't pay attention to the fans or anything like that. I really focus hard on the current pitch and how we got there. I feel that thinking to the following pitch can make you overlook the pitch at hand. I believe strongly in my catchers. They call it a battery for a reason. They are thinking about scouting reports and how to set guys up. Catchers are thinking ahead. (After this fastball we'll go slider away). I focus on the last swing or take the guy just displayed. Sometimes I don't even consider the hitter. It's more important for me to stay with my strengths and hit the spot with the pitch regardless of the hitter. There is a little bit of decision to make on which breaking ball to go with and how that hitter reacts to it. Some guys sit on sliders well and others are real poor on curves. With every situation, the pitch needs to be executed regardless of the hitter. The only instance of regarding the hitter is, say if Chipper Jones is up, I had better make sure I get that curveball down or else -- and "else" has happened a few times already to me.

15. So, what happened? As I Rutgers alum, I've noted your career. You didn't seem like much of a prospect looking at your college ball numbers. But in the minors, you became much more successful. What was the difference? Was it the wood bats? Better coaching? Maturity?
A. I was drafted based upon potential. You are correct in saying that 2 out of my 3 years I had bad numbers. I had a great freshman year in college and never cracked the set starting rotation in college. I was real raw. I could hit 92 in college, but could I locate? No. I had a good curve, but could I get it over the plate consistantly? No. I just threw the ball. I learned over the first few minor league seasons to pitch more and keep the ball down and get the offspeed pitches over the plate. The more consistantly you can throw strikes with breaking balls, well that puts the hitter in a position where they cannot just sit on one pitch. Success is determined on location and speed changes. I have become more of a pitcher since college.

I want to thank Jason Bergmann for his willingness, enthusiasm and thoroughness in this whole process. I hope you pass on your thanks, too.

My guess is I could get a couple of other guys to go along with a Q&A. I'll try to set up a few before spring training is over.

By Barry Svrluga  |  March 3, 2008; 6:36 AM ET
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