Bergman to open season as long man for Rockies

Right-hander could end up starting if De La Rosa isn't ready by April 14

Bergman to open season as long man for Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Christian Bergman was happy to receive a job description that involves the words Major League. It's his first time making a big league team to start a season.

"They called me into the office yesterday and said, 'You're probably wondering where you're going. … You're going to Milwaukee, but there's a twist -- you're going to start out in the bullpen as a long reliever, and if the starter gets in trouble, you're going to be the guy we go to,'" Bergman said Saturday.

The Rockies plan to use four starting pitchers for the first seven regular-season games. If lefty Jorge De La Rosa, coming back from left groin tightness, is able to start April 14, Bergman's role falls into question. But if Bergman makes the most of his appearances, he might be able to avoid being optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque whenever De La Rosa is ready.

Rockies manager Walt Weiss said De La Rosa being ready for April 14 is "absolute best-case scenario," which means Bergman will be ready in case De La Rosa isn't available for that start against the Giants in San Francisco. For now, Weiss said, "He's a guy in the 'pen that can give us length."

Bergman, 26, exceeded expectations as a 24th-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of California, Irvine, and he made 10 starts for the Rockies last season (3-5, 5.93 ERA). He suffered a broken hand when hit with a line drive by the Brewers' Aramis Ramirez on June 20 and was out until Aug. 24. In seven starts after his return, he went 3-3 with a 5.45 ERA. This spring, Bergman had a 5.40 ERA, but six of the 10 runs off him came in one start.

Bergman hit by liner

Bergman did some relief work in the Arizona Fall League, although that was like Spring Training in that the innings were more scheduled than situational. The last time he was truly a reliever was his first two years of college.

The trick for Bergman is to not approach his job as being temporary, but as an opportunity for more chances.

"I'm not really thinking two or three weeks in advance," Bergman said. "I'm glad to make the team and to have a role. I'm focusing on that, not worrying. I'll enjoy it."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.