Former St. Francis star Christian Bergman hoping to transition to majors
With aspirations of playing in the majors, one-time Golden Knights' standout pitcher enjoying success while moving up in the minor leagues.
Former St. Francis High pitcher Christian Bergman, of the Double-A Tulsa Drillers, has stabilized himself mentally and physically on the mound after being promoted from the single-A Modesto Nuts following last season. (Courtesy of Rich Crimi)
He began that success while once standing out on the baseball diamond at St. Francis High before being drafted by the Colorado Rockies out of UC Irvine and advancing to the double-A stage with the Tulsa Drillers. He’s been showered with numerous accolades while piling up victories, including being selected to participate in the Texas League’s All-Star Game for the first time.
Bergman’s burgeoning career continues to ascend in his quest to possibly pitch at the majors. He’s not shy about handling all assignments presented to him.
“Things have been coming along very nicely for me, and I see myself improving,” said Bergman, who was named the All-Area Baseball Player of the Year in 2006 after helping the Golden Knights reach the CIF Southern Section Division II championship contest. “If I make a mistake, I learn from it pitch by pitch.
“I want to be able to go out there and make as much progress as I possibly can. It’s about staying on top of things from the mental standpoint.”
Bergman, who was drafted by Colorado in the 24th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, has stabilized himself mentally and physically on the mound at Tulsa after being promoted from the single-A Modesto Nuts following last season. In 24 appearances with Tulsa, Bergman is 8-7 with a 3.27 earned-run average. He’s struck out 102 and walked 23 in 151 1/3 innings.
He arrived in Tulsa with some impressive credentials. In 2012, Bergman finished 16-5 with a 3.65 ERA. In 162 2/3 innings, Bergman struck out 121 and was named the California League’s Pitcher of the Year. He became just the second player in Modesto’s history to win 16 games in a season.
Those numbers earned Bergman, 25, a trip to Oklahoma. He crossed over a pair of time zones with Modesto catcher Dustin Garneau and pitching coach Darryl Scott to help fortify the Drillers.
With Bergman helping lead the charge, Tulsa won the first-half championship in the league’s North Division. By accomplishing that feat, the Drillers (61-59) will take part in the postseason in September.
“The team and I were able to get off to great starts,” Bergman said. “You know going in that there’s going to be a big difference in the talent level in this league.
“You are going to have a couple of hot spots, but you also find out when things aren’t going so well. So, you have to balance everything out and keep learning the best way you can. Good and bad things are going to happen, whether you like it or not.”
Bergman turned in a quality effort Aug. 2 against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He tossed a three-hitter and struck out six in going the distance for the first time this season to propel visiting Tulsa to a 5-0 victory. It was Bergman’s third career shutout and his first since 2011.
Following the outing, Bergman was named the league’s pitcher of the week for the week ending Aug. 4. Bergman was the second Tulsa pitcher to receive the accolade and became the first Tulsa pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout since Dan Houston in 2011.
In Bergman’s previous five starts, he recorded a 5.52 ERA. He’d given up 11 runs, 17 hits and four homers spanning 11 innings in his previous two outings.
“I learned that you have to just turn the page and move on,” Bergman said. “I want to try and go out there and repeat the things that I did in that start.
“One of the biggest things about being at Modesto was trying to throw as many innings as I could and being able to hold up after the season. The farther you can go [in a game], the more you are doing your job.”
Bergman’s body of work during the first half of the season was recognized, as he was selected to participate in the league’s 77th All-Star Game on June 25 in Springdale, Ark. Bergman was one of six Tulsa athletes chosen to play in the contest.
The players were chosen for the contest by the media and league’s managers.
Unfortunately for Bergman, he didn’t appear in the All-Star Game after pitching for the Drillers two days earlier, in which he tossed eight innings.
“It’s just the way things turned out,” said Bergman, who was 3-6 with 59 strikeouts and a 3.02 ERA in the first half of the season. “I still got to go to the game and enjoy the festivities and being around many of the best players in the league. It was great to just be honored, and it’s something I’m very proud of.”
Garneau, who played at Cal State Fullerton before being drafted by the Rockies in the 19th round in 2009, said Bergman has improved in many facets.
“He’s one of our more consistent pitchers, plus he’s got four different pitches that he can throw for strikes,” said Garneau, who has hit 11 home runs. “I’ve caught him for the last two seasons and he’s learned to take command of the strike zone.
“He’s learned to adjust and stay within himself. He’s just got very good stuff and knows how to handle himself out there.”
Tulsa first-year Manager Kevin Riggs said he was eager to watch Bergman perform after a breakout season at Modesto.
Riggs, who is in his sixth season with the Colorado organization, said Bergman has flourished.
“Our job here is to develop major leaguers, and he’s progressed rapidly through the system,” Riggs said. “This is a very difficult league, but we love the way he’s able to pound the strike zone all the time.
“The team and I are thrilled every time we have him on the mound. We want to see him continue to move up the organizational ladder.”
That’s precisely what Bergman has in mind while trying to finish up the regular season strong and possibly lead Tulsa on a deep postseason run.
Staring down at the catcher’s targets and compiling outs might make things easier for Bergman.
“The lineups that you face now have a lot more depth, so you find out the things that you can do best,” Bergman said. “Usually, there isn’t a guy who is an automatic out.
“I want to repeat the things I’ve done well and finish up strong.”