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10/14/07 The 2008 Nationals Starting Rotation: Jason Bergmann?

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     Neptune, New Jersey is named after the "Roman God of the Sea," and the town itself is known as, "The Crossroads of the Jersey Shore," according to the beachfront town's official website. The town where Washington Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann grew up is located between Asbury Park and Belmar on the Atlantic Coast, just an hour or so south on the Garden State Parkway from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, where Bergmann attended college for two years in 2001-02.

     Bergmann made just 7 starts in two years for the Scarlet Knights, going (4-3) with a 6.46 ERA in 29 overall appearances, and pitching 71.0 innings during which the right-handed sinker-baller allowed 7 home runs, 81 hits and 58 runs while striking out 50 and walking 44.

     Apparently the Montreal Expos' scouts saw something they liked, as they made the 20-year old the 317th pick in 11th Round of the 2002 Amateur Draft. Bergmann signed quickly, and reported to the Vermont Expos of the New York/Penn League, where he went (7-4) with a 2.89 ERA in his first 14 professional starts.

     In 35 starts over the 2003-4 seasons with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the Class-A South Atlantic League, Bergmann posted a (9-18) record with a combined 4.50 ERA to earn a promotion to a higher Class-A affiliate with Brevard County in the Florida State League, where Bergmann was (3-2), with a 1.14 ERA in 24 appearances, all in relief.

     Bergmann finished the 2004 season with Double-AA Harrisburg, and returned there for the beginning of the 2005 season. Now twenty-two, the right hander was (2-0) in 21 games with a low 1.22 ERA, resulting in another jump to Triple-AAA New Orleans, where Bergmann went (3-2) in 20 games before finally receiving the call-up to the Majors with the Washington Nationals just three seasons after being drafted by Montreal.

     In 15 appearances, with 1 as a starter, Jason Bergmann was (2-0) with a 2.75 ERA in his first stint in the Majors, but as the 2006 season began, Bergmann found himself back in New Orleans, where he went (8-2) with a 3.28 ERA in 60.1 innings of work, including 4 starts, to earn another look with the Nationals during which he allowed 81 hits and 49 runs in 64.2 innings to end the 2006 season at (0-2) with a 6.68 ERA.

     Bergmann made the starting rotation out of Spring Training in 2007, but struggled in his first outing against Arizona, walking 6 and giving up 4 runs on 5 hits in 3.2 innings. The right-hander pitched 6.0 shutout innings in his next start, holding Atlanta at bay long enough for the Nationals to win, though Bergmann received no decision, and he wouldn't win first game until May 14th at home against Atlanta, going 8.0 innings over which he allowed just 1 run on 2 hits.

     Three days after his first win, Bergmann felt tightness in his right forearm, and one day later, he was placed on the 15-Day DL. Bergmann worked his way through a rehab stint and returned to Washington on June 25, only to injure his hamstring a month later and miss most of August.

     Bergmann returned for the final month of the season, and was (4-1) in his last seven starts, to end 2007 at (6-6) with a 4.45 ERA in 21 starts and 115.1 innings on the mound. In his first full season as a starter, Bergmann struck out 86 and walked 42, and now in his third Major League season, the Neptune, NJ native has gone (8-8) in 28 starts, and K'd 161 in 199.2 innings with the Nationals.

     A 26-year-old starter with three years of Major League experience, a .500 record, a lively-sinking-fastball, the second-most K's, second-most starts among Nationals pitchers, and the third-most wins on the team in 2007? Neptune, New Jersey's favorite son, and one of only three Rutgers Scarlet Knights currently in Major League Baseball (Q: Can anyone name the other two? Answer below...), Jason Bergmann figures to be a big part of the Nationals starting rotation in '08, and it should be interesting to see what he can do in a full season on the hill.

A: Rutgers alumni- Jason Bergmann, KC's David DeJesus, and San Diego's Chris Young.