Justin Berg Wins Again

Right-hander Justin Berg has won four of his last five starts for Class A Daytona, who has been winning more games as a whole after a 0-6 start put them in an early rut. We caught up with the former Yankees farmhand and asked him about his recent winning ways, his introductory year into the Florida State League, and more.

Daytona won their fourth game in their last six tries Sunday night, 8-4 over Fort Myers. The Cubs are now two over .500 at 29-27, currently 3.5 games out of first place in the Florida State League East as the first half of the 2006 season winds down.

Since starting the year 1-8, Daytona has gone 28-19 to put themselves within striking distance of first place St. Lucie in their division.

While the team's offense has gotten the most recognition with 302 runs scored (the most for any team in the farm system), the pitching staff has shown improvement as well, starting with Berg, who turns 22 this coming Wednesday.

Acquired in the trade that sent OF Matt Lawton to the Bronx late last season, Berg has a 4-1 record and 3.52 ERA in his last five starts and is back to .500 for the first time all year at 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA. He began the year winless in his first seven outings and concluded the month of April with an ERA above five and a half points in five outings.

Inside The Ivy: Walk us through your season to date. You started off slow, but have turned things around somewhat since the middle of last month.

Justin Berg: One big key is having more poise and being under control, not letting the situation get out of hand. When I speed things up, that's when I start getting myself into trouble. I have to take some time, catch my breath and find my balance point. I have to get into a rhythm and go through my delivery, getting the extensions that I need to get some movement and location on the ball.

Inside The Ivy: Is that your way of saying that you consider yourself more of a slow worker?

Justin Berg: I like to get through the inning as quickly as possible, of course. I start by trying to tell myself that I have three minutes to get our team back in the dugout. I want to be out there the least amount as possible each inning, but as long as possible over the course of the entire game.

Inside The Ivy: The team has been playing better in general, wouldn't you say?

Justin Berg: Yeah, we're really starting to come around. Our defense has gotten a lot more sound. It always helps when we're out on the field the least amount as possible. When we're throwing the ball well, our defense is on its toes and we end up making good plays. I think that also helps you get into a hitting rhythm and thus helps you score more runs.

Inside The Ivy: This is your first year in the Advanced A leagues. What are your thoughts so far?

Justin Berg: The hitters are obviously more disciplined. The higher up the ladder you go, that'll always be the case. The hitters are tougher to get out, but every hitter has their weakness and you just have to exploit that. You have to make them get themselves out.

Inside The Ivy: What has your pitching coach, Tom Pratt, shown you this year?

Justin Berg: I've been working on my changeup a lot. It's starting to come around as I'm getting more control on it.

Inside The Ivy: And your slider, that's your out-pitch, correct?

Justin Berg: Correct.

Inside The Ivy: Tell us more about your arsenal.

Justin Berg: I have a four-seam and two-seam fastball usually right around 90-92 mph. The two-seam is more of a sinker that forces the batter to pound the ball into the ground.

Inside The Ivy: We last talked to you right after you joined the organization from the Yankees. Now that you've had time to get used to pitching in the Cubs' system, what are some of the differences between here and the Yankees?

Justin Berg: The Cubs are a little more laid back as far as how we go about things. I'd say they're pretty similar in terms of Spring Training and getting prepared for the season. It was a little more fine-lined with the Yankees and the rules they apply to your appearance, et cetera.

Inside The Ivy: And we all know where those orders come from! Did you ever get a chance to meet Mr. Steinbrenner personally?

Justin Berg: No, but I saw him a few times. I just never was personally introduced to him.

Inside The Ivy: You've now been with two organizations that both have a good array of pitching prospects. Is there any pressure knowing how much competition surrounds you in this particular franchise?

Justin Berg: There are a lot of great prospects here, but doing the best you can with what you have really makes you stand out from everybody else. Everyone is different and we have a lot of great pitchers on our staff. There's not really any pressure, though. If anything, I think it makes you feel better as a team knowing we have so many good prospects on this staff.

Inside The Ivy: You've averaged about one wild pitch (12) per start, which is the most in the farm system so far.

Justin Berg: Yeah, it's not that any of my pitches are all over the place or go straight to the backstop or anything. It's more or less my slider being down in the dirt that Jake (Fox) or Alan (Rick) went down to block and just couldn't get a glove on. The pitches are all there for a purpose.

Inside The Ivy: Tell us about your relationship with your catchers.

Justin Berg: Oh, it's great. They're great guys and they help you get through your bad nights. We talk as much as we can about hitters and certain situations. Those two are some of the best around.

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