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Bergesen looks promising in return

Bergesen looks promising in return

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Manager Dave Trembley said it best.

After watching Brad Bergesen successfully throw his first mound session this spring under the dry covering of the team's indoor batting cages, Trembley noted that Bergesen "sure made a gray day sunny."

It was a thought echoing around the cages on a rainy Saturday morning, as the Orioles breathed a collective sigh of relief -- and couldn't resist a little good-natured ribbing -- following Bergesen's mound debut.

"Ladies and gentleman, Brad Bergesen," announced backup catcher Chad Moeller minutes before the right-hander assumed the hill.

Bergesen has been slowed this spring by a strained right shoulder capsule suffered while filming a team commercial in December, and Saturday's outing marked the first time he has taken the mound in an official capacity since being struck with the ball on his left shin on July 30.

"I think we all just wanted to get through this phase," Trembley said. "I was confident he was going to be OK, but the questions weren't going to be answered fully until he got up on the mound."

Bergesen threw 28 pitches to catcher Matt Wieters, mixing in two or three changeups, and showing a promising sink on his fastball.

"He had his sink back already," Wieters said, impressed. "He was able to locate the fastball, which is the biggest thing coming back [and] getting back on the mound. He was able to stay down [with the location], and it had a sink, which is his pitch."

Added pitching coach Rick Kranitz: "It was like he didn't miss a beat. If you told me he hadn't thrown in five months, I would have said, 'You're a liar.' He was good."

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Bergesen, who tried to squeeze a few more pitches out of Kranitz, said he threw at 75 percent to 80 percent effort, and was relieved to be back on the hill.

"I was surprised," Bergesen said of the movement on his fastball. "I've been working on it in those flat-ground sessions [earlier this week], but you never know how that's going to translate once you get on the mound."

"I was very happy with it. So, hopefully I can just keep building off that."

Trembley and Kranitz said the plan is for Bergesen to throw two more side sessions -- on Monday and Wednesday -- before having the right-hander toss some live batting practice. Barring any setbacks, Bergesen will be ready to go by the team's Opening Day game at Tampa Bay on April 6.

"Definitely," Wieters said. "He's going to get his work in for sure. Bergy's a guy who has his command, and he will be ready to go Day One."

A pleasant surprise last year, Bergesen was 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts before the shin injury ended his season. He is projected to be part of a rotation that includes Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman.

"I have no problem [thinking] that he'll be ready to go," Kranitz said of Bergesen.

Kranitz was admittedly "not happy" about the circumstances surrounding Bergesen's injury, but he said he understood that the young pitcher just got caught up in trying to throw too hard for the cameras.

"He was worried not only about his shoulder, but the way the whole thing came out," Trembley said. "He was sorry that it happened this way. I think he learned a real valuable lesson. But he's fine."

That's good news for the Orioles, who are counting on having Bergesen in their rotation. How his shoulder feels when he wakes up on Sunday morning is another crucial test in his progression, but Bergesen said he wasn't worried.

"The feeling in my arm, like the last time when I threw [for the commercial], when I was experiencing that pain, I felt it right then and there," he said. "So I'm not worried about it. I'm pretty confident I'll be fine."

Brittany Ghiroli 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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