WASHINGTON — Once considered a key member of the Orioles' young rotation, right-hander Brad Bergesen will be pitching for Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday without a spot on the organization's 40-man roster.
That's something he hasn't done in more than four years.
"It's been an interesting process, something I've gone through for the first time, kind of the in-limbo phase," said Bergesen, who was taken off the 40-man roster Friday when the Orioles made room for Bill Hall. "There was some unknown, whether I'd be playing for another team … I was kind of on pins and needles."
The Orioles had 10 days to ask waivers or deal Bergesen, but finding no match on the trade market, they decided to push him through waivers — and he wasn't claimed. Because he had never been outrighted before, Bergesen had to accept the assignment.
Part of him may have been rooting for a fresh start, but there was also a part of him that still wants to succeed for an organization that drafted him in the fourth-round in 2004.
"I had mixed feelings about it. All of us want to be in the big leagues, all of us want the best opportunity for our career and if that is with someone else, well, you always want to be in a good situation," said Bergesen, who is 17-24 with a 4.68 ERA in 83 games with the Orioles over parts of three seasons. "But at the same time, I believe I have a good opportunity here still."
After not making the club out of spring training, Bergesen, 26, was 1-2 with a 5.13 ERA in eight games (six starts) for Norfolk, but his best outing was his last. On two days' rest, he threw five shutout innings in a win against Louisville on May 10.
He was briefly moved into the bullpen at Norfolk, but now looks to be back in the rotation. Bergesen believes if he pitches well, the Orioles and manager Buck Showalter will give him a chance to return to Baltimore even if he is no longer on the 40-man roster.
"Buck definitely has shown [it doesn't matter] if a guy is on the 40-man or not on the 40-man if he can help the team," Bergesen said. "If I pitch to my capabilities this season, if Buck knows I can contribute to the team, at some point, I'm sure he'll be willing to do so."
Davey's fond memories
It's no secret that Nationals manager Davey Johnson has a lot of history with the Orioles, from his early days as a player to the two years he managed the team and twice led it to the American League Championship Series.
So, pardon him for getting a little nostalgic about his days as a young player in Baltimore in the 1960s.
"It was more of a family,'' he told reporters Friday. "It was my first big league team and it was [a family]. We tried to live close to each other. We did things off the field. We partied a lot. We won a lot so we had a lot to party for."
One of those parties almost changed baseball as we know it, when a very important player on that team had quite a scare.
"I remember the time that Frank Robinson, after we won in '66, he fell in a swimming pool and Andy Etchebarren and I were looking down at him and he was in the bottom of the pool,'' Johnson said. "We both jumped in and saved him. He didn't know how to swim — and he was nothing but rock hard muscle. We didn't know why he went in the pool but we dang sure weren't going to let him drown."
Johnson said he remembers the fun away from the field more than all the ballgames the Orioles won in those days.
"I remember those more than sweeping the Dodgers four straight and the times that I used to kick [Earl] Weaver's [butt] on the golf course,'' he said. "It was just a fun time. ... It was just a family atmosphere. That's what I really love about the Orioles. We went through the good and the bad together. We had a lot more good."
Johnson returns to Nats Park
It's been three years since Orioles first baseman Nick Johnson has played with the Washington Nationals, but that doesn't mean he's cut all ties. He still has a few friends with the Nats, including third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, and he still periodically checks to see how the club is doing.
"I spent a large part of my career here. We struggled later but in 2005 we were in it for a while. It was great, made a lot of friendships in my time here," said Johnson, who came with the team from Montreal in 2005 and stayed with the Nationals until he was traded to the Florida Marlins in July 2009.
"I read the paper. I pay attention, but not as much," he said. "But there are some guys over there, Zim, I look to see how he is doing. So, yeah, if I'm flipping through the sports page, I see what's going on over there."
Britton throws Monday; next destination not revealed