FORT MYERS, Fla. — — With one swing from Minnesota's Denard Span on the fourth pitch of Friday's 6-5 loss to the Twins, Orioles right-hander Brad Bergesen lost a prime opportunity to show the club's decision-makers that he deserves to be on the Opening Day roster.
Span's smoking liner caught Bergesen flush on the right forearm, about two inches from his wrist, and ricocheted in the air and into Robert Andino's glove for the inning's first out. Bergesen immediately was forced from the game, costing him a key outing in his rotation battle.
The liner didn't snuff out his sense of humor.
"It was a no-hitter," he deadpanned.
Bergesen could afford to joke a little, because things could have been a lot worse. He has swelling in the forearm and some tingling in his fingers, but X-rays were negative and he should be able to pitch again soon — though a timetable won't be determined until the swelling subsides.
"The doctor said he hit me in probably the best spot," said Bergesen, who has a 5.82 ERA in 17 innings this spring and is battling with Chris Tillman to pitch the Orioles' third game of the season, April 3 at Tampa Bay. "He said any higher would have been a deep muscle bruise, and that would have caused some damage. And a little bit lower would have been ligaments, and lower than that would have caught the bone flush by itself. He said to get in the right arm, that's the best spot."
This isn't the first time Bergesen has dealt with a vicious comebacker. His banner rookie season in 2009 was cut short in July when a liner by Kansas City's Billy Butler caromed off Bergesen's left leg and caused a deep contusion. Bergesen said he thought about that play after the Span liner, but isn't concerned about pitching again.
"It's not going to be one of those things when I get back on the mound again, I'm going to be scared or tentative," Bergesen said. "I'll put it away and go forward with it."
Although Bergesen said he was "optimistic" about a quick return, manager Buck Showalter said it was too early to know how it will affect his rotation.
"We're lucky. The X-ray didn't reveal any breaks or anything, so we'll get some of the swelling and soreness out of there," Showalter said. "That area there usually brings some challenges with feel and everything, so we'll see where we are in the next day or two when the swelling goes down."
If Bergesen isn't ready for Opening Day, Tillman, who pitches Sunday in a split-squad game against the Boston Red Sox in Sarasota, is the favorite to make the rotation. Non-roster invitee Ryan Drese, who pitches Saturday against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte, Fla., is at least technically in the mix, as is lefty phenom Zach Britton, who is expected to spend at least three weeks in the minors.
Showalter has said the Orioles will only have four starters until a fifth is needed April 10.
"Until we find out what we're dealing with the next two or three days, speculating on it right now is probably not [prudent]," Showalter said. "It's nice to have options, one of which Bergy was."
In discussing the rotation, Showalter mentioned Justin Duchscherer and said he was buoyed by the injured right-hander's 40-pitch bullpen session earlier that morning.
"That's the best I've seen him throw," Showalter said. "He had a good face when he was throwing. You could tell he felt good physically, so that's encouraging. We'll see what each day brings."
Duchscherer (left hip soreness) will start the season on the disabled list, but is hoping to be ready by April 21.
"I go day-to-day," he said. "Yeah, there's something out there for me, but right now, I'm just taking it day-by-day. I see how I feel and go from there."
Around the horn
Showalter does not expect more cuts to be made until after Sunday's split-squad games. … Along with Drese, Jason Berken, Josh Rupe and David Riske are slated to pitch Saturday. Rays phenom Jeremy Hellickson will start for Tampa Bay. … Right-hander Koji Uehara (elbow) threw 14 pitches in one inning during a Triple-A game against Boston Red Sox minor leaguers Friday. He struck out the first batter he faced and retired the next two on fly outs. Since he had thrown just seven pitches, the inning was extended and Uehara walked a fourth batter on seven pitches. … Right-handed pitcher Ryan Berry, the Orioles' ninth-best prospect according to Baseball America, will have a ganglion cyst drained from his right shoulder Saturday and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the minor league season. The 19-year-old who had shoulder trouble while at Rice University was 2-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 25 games (20 starts) between Single-A Delmarva and Single-A Frederick last season. … Orioles' 2010 Opening Day starter Kevin Millwood has agreed to a minor league deal with the New York Yankees. … Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday. He and Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer are spokesmen for Head & Shoulders shampoo.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.