SARASOTA, Fla. — Before he stepped on the mound and threw his first formal bullpen session in seven months, Brad Bergesen's arrival Saturday was trumpeted by Orioles catcher Chad Moeller.
"Ladies and gentleman, Brad Bergesen," Moeller yelled to the smiles and laughs of teammates.
On a day where heavy rains forced the Orioles to conduct their workout in the indoor batting cages and pitching mounds at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, all eyes were on Bergesen, who threw a successful and pain-free 28-pitch bullpen session that strengthened both his and the team's belief that he'll be ready to join the Opening Day rotation.
"I'm really relieved," Bergesen said. "I've been looking forward to getting back out there for a long time. Really, the last time I was on a mound, other than the commercial, but actually competing for something, was that last game. So it's been a while. I've been really, really looking forward to today."
Bergesen had thrown on the mound only once since his strong rookie season ended July 30 when he was hit in the left shin by a line drive off the bat of the Kansas City Royals' Billy Butler. That was in early December when he sprained his right pitching shoulder filming an Orioles promotional ad.
"It was like he didn't miss a beat," said Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz. "If you would have told me he hadn't thrown in five months or whatever, I would have said you're a liar. It was very good. The movement was excellent. His mechanics were very good."
Throwing at what he estimated as 75 to 80 percent effort, Bergesen tossed 26 fastballs and two changeups during the session, which was caught by starting catcher Matt Wieters.
"He had his sink back already and he was able to locate the fastball. He was able to stay down," Wieters said. "Bergy's got that fastball to where he doesn't have to try and do too much. He can just throw it over the middle and let it work. I definitely don't think he was trying to do too much just getting back on the mound."
Bergesen also said that he was pleased with the movement and location that he was achieving with his fastball.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Bergesen, who went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts in 2009 and had emerged as the Orioles' most effective starter before the injury. "Today was just getting up there and kind of getting the cobwebs out of there. But I was able to get the ball down and throw my two-seamer. I've been working on it in those flat-ground sessions, but you never know how that's going to translate once you get on the mound. But I was very happy with it today, and hopefully I can keep building on that."
Assuming that he has no setbacks, Bergesen will throw bullpen sessions Monday and Wednesday and if all goes well with those, he'll be in line to throw live batting practice Friday. All along, team officials had stressed that the 24-year-old right-hander would be about 10 days behind the other Oriole pitchers, and that's how it has played out so far.
"I think we all just wanted to get through this phase," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "I was confident that he was going to be OK, but I knew the questions weren't going to be answered fully until he got up on the mound."
NOTES: Chris Tillman, Mike Hinckley, Wilfrido Perez, Ross Wolf, Chorye Spoone, Josh Perrault and Brandon Erbe will pitch for the orange team in Monday's intrasquad game, while Jake Arrieta, Jim Johnson, Luis Lebron, Troy Patton, Armando Gabino, Frank Mata and Alfredo Simon are scheduled to throw for the black team.