Jason Bergmann designated for assignment
To make room for starting pitcher Scott Olsen, the Nationals today designated relief pitcher Jason Bergmann for assignment. In an effort to improve their shaky bullpen, the Nationals potentially cut ties with a pitcher who has been with the organization continuously since he was drafted in 2002, longer than every player except outfielder Roger Bernadina.
Assuming he would be the victim of Olsen's promotion, Bergmann lingered on a clubhouse couch or at his locker all morning. When bench coach John McLaren called him into Manager Jim Riggleman's office, his preparedness absorbed little of the sting.
"I got fired from my job today," Bergmann said. "It's the hardest thing to deal with. It's probably the worst day of my life right now."
While Bergmann has spent most his time with the Nationals as a middle reliever largely anonymous outside Washington, he holds a unique place in the team's brief history. He is currently the Nationals all-time strikeout leader with 299. He was the first player to locker next to Stephen Strasburg in a major league clubhouse. He was called up the majors Aug. 28, 2005, three days before Ryan Zimmerman.
"It just crossed my mind," Bergmann said, his voice cracking. "This is the only organization I've known. I like it here. I like all the people, the staff, the organization, the owners. I wish it would have worked out a little more right now. We'll see what happens. I could be back here."
While Bergmann would be happy to remain with the Nationals organization, his preference is to hook on with a major league team. The Nationals, General Manager Mike Rizzo said, will explore a trade for Bergmann for the next 10 days, at which point they will be have to place Bergmann on waivers. If no one claims him, the Nationals will not cut him and Bergmann will report to Class AAA Syracuse.
Bergmann allowed four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings spanning four appearances. On opening day, he gave up a grand slam to Placido Polanco on his second pitch of the season. Wednesday night, Bergmann surrendered the home run by Shane Victorino that put the Phillies ahead for good.
"Despite the fact that it was only two innings in four games, the results just haven't been there," Bergmann said. "I know I'm struggling."
"This is a performance-based league," Rizzo said. "Jason just didn't have the consistent outings that we could rely on. The decision just came down, do we take a guy that's throwing well for us because he has options? Or do we go with the best seven guys?"
As the Nationals return to a seven-man bullpen, their relievers may benefit from more regular use. Bergmann referenced the difficulty of pitching in irregular spurts. "I'd love to regain some rhythm and feel," Bergmann said. "I feel the more I pitch, the better I'll get."
"In the games we've used the bullpen in save-situation type games, there's been kind of a flow," Rizzo said. "With one less bullpen guy, certainly there will be more consistent roles. I think it will help guys mentally to prepare."
"Who knows?" Riggleman said. "Maybe if we didn't have eight, he would have gotten more opportunity and been able to pitch better. His days in the big leagues are not over. I can guarantee you that. He's either going to pitch here again, or somebody's going to pick him up."
"I'm a major league pitcher," Bergmann said. "I've been here for some time. Although I didn't have the exact success I wanted, I know I can pitch here. I just have to do it."
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