MINNESOTA -- A starter his entire career, Orioles reliever Jason Berken admits he didn't know what to expect when he made his first Opening Day roster as a long man out of the bullpen.
"I feel like I've been able to transition pretty good with a lot of help from guys who have been in the 'pen [to] help me smooth it out," Berken said. "I like coming to the field every day knowing I have a chance to pitch."
Over his first seven appearances as a reliever, Berken has posted a 1.88 ERA, allowing three earned runs over 14 1/3 innings. Entering Thursday, the right-hander had allowed just one earned run over his past six appearances and was holding left-handed hitters to a .083 (2-for-24) average, second in the American League only to Texas' Neftali Feliz (.080). Right-handed hitters were batting .393 (11-for-28) off Berken.
"I've been able to sink my ball away to lefties," Berken said. "The biggest thing is I've been able to throw my two-seamer behind in the count, that's kind of helped me along the way. Whatever I'm doing now, hopefully I can keep doing it and do a little better against righties as well."
After making 24 starts for the O's last season, Berken is also learning to adopt a slightly different approach in the bullpen. While talking with fellow reliever Matt Albers about whether to throw a curveball to certain hitters, Berken said Albers told him, 'If you're going to get beat, you might as well get beat with your best stuff.'"
"As a starter, you throw every pitch," Berken said. "But for me, coming in now knowing I'm only going to face a guy potentially once. You want to go at him with your best stuff."
Mark Hendrickson, the Orioles' other long man, said moving Berken to the bullpen has allowed the young righty to become less analytical.
"He's more reacting because he doesn't want to waste a pitch," Hendrickson said. "He gets in there, the adrenaline's flowing, just allows himself to pitch. And that's what works for him, which is good."
"Because ultimately, it's about adjusting to the 'pen and saying, 'OK, what's going to allow me to be successful?' And he's done that very well so far."