Versatile Bergman proving valuable to Rockies' staff

Long reliever a candidate to step in for injured Gray

Versatile Bergman proving valuable to Rockies' staff

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pitching injuries late in the spring happen all the time, but they're always stressful. That's why it's good the Rockies have slow-heartbeat right-hander Christian Bergman.

Bergman (3-1, 4.74 ERA last season in 30 games, including four starts) is there if the Rockies need him to replace righty starter Jon Gray, who is out with a strained abdominal muscle. If they need him to stay in long relief, Bergman is fine with that. He's even philosophical about it all.

"I [started] my whole Minor League career pretty much, and I enjoyed being out there," Bergman said. "I look at it kind of as starting a painting. You get to create your own masterpiece. Whereas relieving, especially long relieving, the building's burning down. You've got to go in and save as many people as you can."

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Bergman, in case you wonder, won't be the next Bob Ross, although he notes, "My dad paints." As for the fire analogy, it's figurative, although he did replace Gray in the first inning against the Brewers and pitch four scoreless innings.

"The other day was about as bad as it gets," Bergman said with a smile.

Gray said he could be game-ready in two weeks, although such injuries are unpredictable and the Rockies will be careful with him. Bergman appears the most logical candidate should the Rockies need a replacement.

He threw 57 pitches against the Brewers, and could be at a credible level by the time the regular season begins.

"How much is enough?" Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We don't need him built up to 100 pitches."

Bergman said the likely scenario has him going five innings or 75 pitches in his next outing.

As for other candidates, non-roster lefty Yohan Flande would have to build his pitch count, and two roster members are coming off injuries -- a right hamstring strain for righty David Hale and left middle finger inflammation for lefty Chris Rusin.

Bergman's demeanor is much like his words. Realizing his calling card is adaptability, Bergman isn't attaching any special excitement to the prospect of beginning a season in the starting rotation.

"To be honest, I haven't really thought about it," said Bergman, who has worked on fastball command and sharpened his changeup this spring (2-1, 0.82 ERA in 11 Cactus League innings). "I'll deal with that when we get there. So ask me again later."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.