VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann was kind enough to take your submitted questions earlier this week ... then took four days to get around to actually answer them. Obviously, this guy knows nothing about reporter deadlines. He wouldn't last a day in this business!
But seriously, folks, Jason has always been one of the most media-friendly and fan-friendly members of the Nats organization, and he remains the only guy along with Ryan Zimmerman to have appeared in at least one game every season since the franchise arrived in D.C. (Fun fact: Did you know Bergmann is the Nats' all-time leader in strikeouts with 297? Livan Hernandez is hot on his tail at 263.)
With that, here are Jason's unfiltered answers to your questions. Thanks to everyone who participated, and thanks to Jason for being a good sport ... and having an impressive grasp of grammar, spelling and punctuation skills for a guy who didn't go to journalism school! ...
JayB: How is this year's camp different from each of your past six, is it not? That covers Frank, Manny and Jim. Reflecting back on past spring training camps from 2005-2006 to 2007-2009 to present day 2010, how does this roster stack up to the past years?
Jason Bergmann: This year's camp is, by far, the most veteran-laden. There are so many guys in camp with us that have done so much for other teams. This camp is also the first in the last three years without a controversial topic. In 2007, it was the Alfonso Soriano's 2B/LF situation. In 2008, the whole Mitchell Report and steroid cloud. In 2009, we had Jim Bowden's resignation and the Dominican scandal (of which none of us really know what happened). This year our biggest controversy is which pair of cleats to wear on a given day: plastic or metal. This camp isn't much different, but it's all pure baseball with no distractions!
Anonymous: I'm curious, at what point in your baseball life did you become a full-time pitcher? What position did you play most, as well as pitching? Did you have any chance at professional baseball at a position other than pitching?
Jason Bergmann: Once I reached the collegiate ranks, my sole position was pitching. I really always was a pitcher at heart, but ya can't pitch everyday and I never had the eye for batting.
Anonymous: Jason, did you catch any of MTV's Jersey Shore? Bring back memories, maybe recognize a friend or two?
Jason Bergmann: I knew this would come up, being from New Jersey and all. I did indeed watch the whole season. I, in fact, went to high school with "The Situation" Mike Sorrentino. We actually played football together back in the day. Small world.
Peric: What did you and your wife like best about Syracuse? Least?
Jason Bergmann: I enjoyed Syracuse; my wife found it too cold! We had a tough time finding an apartment and frequently found ourselves in the hotels. I know the mall up there was very good and my daughter loved the indoor carousel. I really liked the ballpark and the fans were always friendly.
Nervous Nats Fan said: How do you feel about your switch from starter to reliever? Are you more confident going into this season knowing your role? Also, I saw an interview last year where you suggested that you hate running. Do you have another activity that you like better to stay in shape?
Jason Bergmann: I just love pitching and am comfortable -- and more than happy to pitch -- in any role. It is a nice thing to go into camp with a single focus. The preparation and mindset are easier when you know what's expected of you. I am happy with my role. As a reliever, I don't really feel that I need the distance running, but shorter bursts of running are good. Also during I always incorporated some cardio in my workouts, keeping the heart rate elevated. I have always been anti-running -- I mean, who LIKES running after all? -- but it is good for you and sometimes I have to get past it and just do it.
Gus: How do you view the time period between the end of baseball season and start of spring training? Is this primarily an extended vacation where your body recovers from the stress of season? Or do you identify an aspect of your baseball game to focus and improve upon through exercise, repetition or additional coaching? If the latter, what did you focus upon this past offseason? Finally, is the option of winter ball something which is encouraged or discouraged by the club and how do you view it?
Jason Bergmann: I like to take October off and recover. I get the opportunity to see family and friends. I started working out with a trainer on November 1 and continued that all the way up to February 17. This year I started throwing right after the new year and threw a bullpen every other day since late January. I am sure in today's game, more and more players come into camp READY to compete, and rarely do you see someone coming into camp just starting to get ready. ... I think winter baseball is a personal decision. I like it especially for those who have been hurt and missed significant time during the year. I am pretty sure that a few free agents use winter leagues as showcases for teams. I personally think they are good leagues and the competition is certainly solid, but for the guys that are under contract with MLB teams, there is a little cautioning. Those guys have to be responsible and make sure that MLB and their job there is their priority.
Anonymous: In this era of players staying in shape year-round, how long does spring training need to be if you were in charge of such things? Do teams need to be down south for parts of three months? What are your housing options in Viera? Does the team provide meal money, apartment/hotel allowance?
Jason Bergmann: I have to be honest. I think the length spring training is about right. I come into spring ready to go, but no matter how good of shape and how ready my arm is, it never compares to live-game or team training. The adrenaline always gets you, and the outside air and feel of things wears on the body a little more in spring training practice than offseason training. Those who need the most time in spring training are the starting pitchers and front office. The organization and the front office really need the whole time to evaluate the players and to decide where to send them. ... There are several apartment complexes in the general area, and due to the economy, renting a home is another option. Or you can do what I did and just buy a lovely home a short way away from the park! And yes, the team does pay the players for them to live in spring training housing, etc. This is all per the collective bargaining agreement (agreed to by the players and owners).
Chuckles: Being with an NL team, how often do Nationals pitchers take batting/bunting practice?
Jason Bergmann: In the past few years we have dedicated more and more time to the pitcher's ability to contribute at the plate. Maybe it was my misfortunes at the plate that help spark more work? I dunno. (Editor's Note: Jason went 0-for-40 with 20 strikeouts in 2008. Not that we still bring that fact up on a regular basis.) We bunt almost every day, whether reliever or starter, and as we get into the regular season the starters hit and bunt every day.
Craig said: What is your favorite pre-game meal?
Jason Bergmann: We eat differently depending on the city we're in. My favorites are Philly cheesesteak (Phillies visitors' clubhouse) and New York pepperoni pizza (Mets visitors' clubhouse) Mmmm.
Avar: First of all, thank you for taking the questions. Players like you that go so far out of your way to cater to us nerdy bloggers means a lot to us. Kind of restores your faith in the game. ... In a season where you go back and forth from Syracuse to D.C., what do you do for housing? Do you have to start from scratch trying to find a rental with each move? Do you keep a place in one city or do some of the players sometimes pass rental places between them? Do you move the furniture every time or rent something furnished? Along those lines, is it hard to know what you can afford when your salary goes back and forth from $400,000 to $65,000 or whatever it is in the minors? That would drive me crazy. Seems it would be hard to buy something when you don't know how much you'll make or where you'll live! Obviously, we’re rooting for you to stay on the 25-man all season and avoid this, but I thought about it when you and several guys went back and forth so much last year.
Jason Bergmann: Yeah, every time you get sent somewhere, it's your responsibility to find housing. Sometimes players who become friends will share a place. There are times where the incoming player will take the now-vacant apartment of the departed guy. Most of the time the furniture has to be rented. After all, I can't be traveling with a couch in my truck! Not all ballplayers are millionaires! We have families, bills, expenses of all kinds and have to maintain two residences most times. We are just like everyone else, just with a large microscope over our heads, but the profession we chose doesn't last like other jobs. We can only do it for so long. Regardless of how much I am making, I never let it get to my head. I try to keep a sound budget and really understand that this job, this lifestyle, this paycheck, will most definitely not last forever. I try to save and do my best to take care of my family now and plan for the future.
Natscan Reduxit: My question was spurred this morning by reading about the "sad" and discouraging story of Jesus Flores' recovery. Jason, when a pitcher gets comfortable with one specific catcher, and then has to move arbitrarily to another, possibly unknown, one, how difficult is that move, both for the pitcher and for the catcher?
Jason Bergmann: I'd say this is a tough one for me, just because we really haven't had that steady starting catcher for some time now. I will say this: Everyone has a preference as to who is catching them or who I've noticed I am throwing well to. I haven't thrown to Flo in a while, but last year I really liked the way Bard called games for me and also how Nieves makes me work extra hard at keeping the ball down. I am anxious to throw to Pudge, just because ... it's Pudge!
VladiHondo: First, thanks for the effort you make meeting the fans -- I have at least two autographed baseballs you signed at Nats Park. What is your pitch repertoire, and how would you rank your pitches? Is there a new pitch or grip you're working on this spring? If so, can you show us (maybe via pix)?
Jason Bergmann: Not sure how to get pictures, maybe Zuckerman can hook that up. I'd rank my pitches like this: 1) four-seam fastball, 2)curveball, 3) sinker, 4) slider, 5) straight change-up.
NatsNut: Thanks for doing this, Jason. I'd be happy if you stayed with the Nationals for your career. I actually have a question not about you. Do you still live in the house near Shawn Hill there in Viera? Still talk to him? How's he doing?
Jason Bergmann: Thanks for the vote of confidence. As for Shawn, he is currently with the Blue Jays' camp in Dunedin, Fla. I haven't seen or talked to him in a few weeks since he left. Last I saw, he was throwing and feeling great.
Kathy T.: Jason, thanks so much! I know so much of a pitcher's success depends on how his arm feels. I've seen pitchers wrapping their arms between innings, etc., and wondered how much do you have to baby your throwing arm? What techniques do you use to keep your arm ready and loose during a game?
Jason Bergmann: Hmm, I think all the "babying" I do is during our throwing program. If I think I need a break, I will just throw less before the game to ensure my game-day availability. We commonly heat, stretch and use Advil or Aleve or Tylenol. Hey, they are OTC anti-inflammatories! Legal!
Luckyute: How annoyed/pissed were you that you just missed a no-hitter against the Braves a couple of years ago?
Jason Bergmann: Neither! Overjoyed that was one hell of a game -- seriously.
Jack Tavenner: Jason, I attended the Tampa Bay Rays game last June, which was you last outing before getting sent to Syracuse. When you returned from Syracuse, your work out of the bullpen was stellar. What was the difference?
Jason Bergmann: There wasn't one. I threw real well up until that game, and I had a bad one. Kip Wells was coming off the DL, and I was sent packing. As for AAA, I really made no adjustments at all, just relaxed and threw like I knew I could!
Jon Hoffman: Are you aware of the awesome face you make when pitching?
Jason Bergmann: It takes years to perfect that, by the way. A lot of mirror work and family support along the way.
Thanks for the questions. I am always happy to answer anything you're willing to ask! (Well, almost.)