Q&A with Jason Bergmann

For a team to exceed expectations, they need surprising performances from unexpected contributors. Starting pitcher, Jason Bergmann has been just that for the Nationals. We recently caught up with Bergmann, who is off to an outstanding start this season, for a Q&A session.

CapitolDugout: First of all, you've got to be very happy with your good start to the season. What are your general feelings on the first month and what you've done?

Jason Bergmann: I am just glad that I was able to make the team. I know I probably wasn't the popular choice to start the year, but I was given the opportunity and that's all I can ask for. I am pleased that my outings are going well. We have a great team, I think, and we are sure capable of winning a lot more games than people think.

CapitolDugout: You mention that you had to work to make the team. What type of mentality did you have in spring training to keep yourself from trying too hard to impress and just do your job?

Jason Bergmann: It is my belief that not having a high expectations placed on me allowed me to better relax and be at ease when preparing to throw. I knew that no matter what people said on paper, the game is played on the field and a strong showing was sure to get people's attention. I just did everything in my power to stay in MLB camp and continue to throw well.

CapitolDugout: Looking back to the April 12th game in Atlanta, do you see that as turning point of sorts for you?

Jason Bergmann: I think that the Atlanta start was the beginning of a turnaround and that the Phillies game completed it. Coming off of that poor outing against Arizona, it was important to throw strikes and not try to do everything myself. I was able to do that and despite 4 walks, I managed to get guys out. In between that start and Philadelphia start, Randy St. Claire and I worked for a short time just keeping my fingers on top of the ball upon release. Most of my bad pitches and walks are because I throw a little more on the side causing the ball to rise and run out of the strike zone. Staying within myself and controlling my body more are reasons why I can stay on top more.

CapitolDugout: Looking at where you are performance-wise right now, are you meeting your own personal expectations and what else do you hope to achieve this season in terms of performance?

Jason Bergmann: I honestly didn't set an expectation level for myself. I just want to be in the majors in any capacity. I hope that I can continue to throw well, and I am not just talking statistically. I want to continue with the mechanical progress that I have made with Randy St. Claire over the last few weeks. Finding my consistent arm slot and finger placement on the ball, will determine how long I am successful. Something I hope lasts a long time.

CapitolDugout: Even though the team's record isn't great at this point, you guys are already surprising some people, particular surprising is some of the pitching performances. What is the clubhouse's take on trying to exceed the low expectations and does it serve as motivation?

Jason Bergmann: Honestly, Manny Acta's aura is nothing but positive. There is never a negative word spoken out of his mouth. Guys feed off that. We all know that things could be better, but no one is negative. We are really fortunate to have the guys we do have. Schneider is a huge help to our staff. For myself, Schneider has helped me trust in all my pitches a lot more. He knows the teams, studies the game plans, and watches video. He knows what to call and when. Having a guy like that catching you is always a huge help. We have a large veteran presence in the clubhouse too. Dmitri Young, Robert Fick, Ray King, Brian Schneider, Nick Johnson, these guys have played a lot of years with a lot of different teams. They are vocal with everyone and loosen things up well. Having guys like that around you can be a boost at any time.

CapitolDugout: You mention that Schneider having a game plan really helps you. Are you the type of pitcher who is really into scouting reports and studying each of their strengths and weaknesses or do you prefer to pitch simply pitch to your strengths?

Jason Bergmann: I don't think I fall into either category completely. I like seeing the scouting reports and last few games on film, but I know that I can't pitch away from my own strengths. I think that at different times during the game, you need to pitch away from the game plan. If you see a well known pull side fastball hitter, slapping a ball the other way, you can assume that he has made an adjustment on your plan. What you do then is counter his change and make one of your own. Most decisions are made based on what you see when your out there.

CapitolDugout: You've had a lot of work out of the bullpen in your career and this may be a big year as far as innings pitched for you. Do you think throwing more innings and more pitches will present any sort of challenge for you?

Jason Bergmann: I started for a number of years before 2004. I was converted to be a reliever and still always threw more than 100 innings each year. I hope to stay healthy all year of course. I don't really know what the end of the year will be like so we will just have to do another interview in September.

CapitolDugout: Looking ahead to your next start, what do you feel you need to do in order to have continued success?

Jason Bergmann: I am really confident that our game plans are accurate and well thought out. One thing that never changes is strikes. In order to get anyone out, you need to throw strikes early and low in the zone, once you do that it puts the pressure on the hitter and that goes for any hitter at any level.

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