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Bergesen closes first half in fitting style

Bergesen closes first half in fitting style

BALTIMORE -- They thought he was ready, but they never thought he'd already be their ace. Rookie starter Brad Bergesen ended his first half in fine style Sunday, positioning himself as the Orioles' most consistent starter for the second half. Bergesen, true to his recent form, held the Blue Jays down in a 4-2 victory.

That start fell right into line with his established body of work. Bergesen was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk late in April and found his form shortly thereafter. The right-hander has posted a 5-1 record and a 2.35 ERA since May 29, and he's completed six innings and allowed two earned runs or less in seven of his past nine starts.

"Bergesen sure had a great first half for us," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "I think he has established himself as a real nice story in the American League this year as a starting pitcher. It seems like every time he pitches, he gives us a chance to win, and it was no different today."

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Bergesen, who impressed the Orioles' coaching staff with his steady demeanor in Spring Training, worked his way out of several tough situations Sunday. The 23-year-old stranded the bases loaded in the third inning and got key double plays in the second and the fourth, helping to preserve Baltimore's hard-fought lead.

"He threw the ball well," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "If you throw good sinkers, you're going to get people out, and that's what he did today. He mixed in his breaking ball a little bit, too, but he did a very good job."

The Blue Jays (44-46) pushed just one runner on base between the fourth and the sixth innings, allowing Bergesen to breathe easily. But then they opened the seventh with a double, threatening to make it a close game. David Dellucci doubled in one run, and another scored on a sacrifice fly before the Orioles ended the threat.

And Bergesen, who left with two out in the seventh, was finally free to go home and reflect on his success.

"The first half was such a huge learning experience," Bergesen said. "I'll take that as the positive and also reflect on the negatives and know what I need to do in the second half. I'm definitely not going to turn the switch off, even for a few days. That day doesn't come for me until into the offseason. I'll just do my normal thing, get somewhat of a decent physical and mental rest and get back at it again."

Perhaps the most important aspect of Bergesen's emergence has been the tattered state of Baltimore's rotation. The Orioles released Adam Eaton early in the year and reassigned Mark Hendrickson to a bullpen role, and they've also watched as Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie and rookie fill-in Jason Berken have struggled.

Through it all, Bergesen (6-3) has kept taking the ball and kept providing quality starts.

"I think it just goes to show you that if you command the strike zone and you have movement and you pitch down, you can be successful here," said Trembley, underlining Bergesen's strong points. "He's been able to do that more times than not. He just repeats his delivery, he repeats his pitches. And the big thing he had to do was improve the changeup and be able to repeat the slider. He's done it. The guys love playing behind him."

And that was evident in the clubhouse Sunday, when a large crowd gathered in front of Bergesen's locker. His teammates began teasing the perpetually polite Bergesen for his belated arrival, and when he began striding to his locker, many of them began to call him "ROY," which stands for Rookie of the Year.

Trembley, when asked how to handle Bergesen in the second half, provided a fitting quip.

"The challenges I have for him are don't kill him and don't get caught up in the pitch counts," Trembley said. "You've got to take a real good look at him because this guy works real hard ... [and] gives you everything he's got on every pitch. He's going to be pitching on the road a lot in the second half.

"He's going to be pitching in this division in the second half. Those will be the challenges for him."

The Orioles (40-48) started early against Toronto starter Marc Rzepczynski, notching a run in the third inning on a double by Brian Roberts, who came around on a base hit by Nick Markakis. The Orioles (40-48) scored again on a solo homer by Oscar Salazar in the sixth and notched a final insurance run in the seventh on Roberts' second RBI.

Adam Jones, who will be Baltimore's lone delegate in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, showed off his talent with a leaping catch at the wall in the fourth inning. Jones later fouled a ball off his shin and had his left knee drained of fluid after the game. Jones, true to his hard-charging nature, said the injury doesn't really affect him in the field.

"You have to fight through it. I can play," Jones said of his ailment, which has bothered him for weeks. "I'll get two days. Everybody else gets four, I'll get two. That's not a problem. Just try to relax and stay off my feet."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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