Travis Bergen made his Nat Bailey Stadium against the Hillsboro Hops June 28, 2015.
2015 to 2017 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Travis Bergen fills up the strike zone in the latest installment of C’s Chat.
The 24 year-old lefthander from McDonough, Georgia was a seventh-round selection of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015 out of Kennesaw State University. He posted a 16-9 record with a 3.10 earned run average over his three-year career with the Owls, the last two as a starter. In his sophomore campaign in 2014, Bergen helped the Owls win their Atlantic Sun Conference championship and was named the Tallahassee Regional’s Most Outstanding Player after winning that tournament. Bergen backed up his outstanding sophomore season by earning Atlantic Sun Conference All-First Team honours as well as landing a spot on the All-Academic squad in 2015.
Bergen looked to continue his success on his transition from college to the pros and he made quite a statement in his 2015 professional debut with the C’s. The 6-foot-1 hurler pitched three shutout innings and struck out eight out of the 10 men he faced in Tri-City June 23. His only blemish was a leadoff walk to begin his second inning of work but he shrugged that off by striking out the last six men he faced. Seven of those strikeouts were of the swinging variety and he earned the victory for his efforts as the C’s downed the Dust Devils 4-2.
“I remember it being a lot of fun. I remember being pretty nervous and not knowing what to expect with pro ball being new to me but I enjoyed it. I went out there and did the best I could and ended up with some pretty good results.
It just happened to be one of those games where I was throwing some pretty good pitches and keeping (the hitters) off-balance quite a bit and that was about it. There wasn’t a whole lot to it or out of the ordinary I don’t think.”
Bergen’s next outing came five days later as he made his Nat Bailey Stadium debut. He made a good impression in front of the hometown fans that day with 2-1/3 scoreless innings of two-hit ball with three strikeouts against the Hillsboro Hops. Bergen had pitched into the ninth inning of the game but a sore left elbow would not let him continue. That day brought a series of mixed emotions for Bergen.
“That was a cool experience to begin with, with the fans and being in that stadium and how electric the crowd is. That was probably the first time that I’ve been front of a crowd like that. That was a lot of fun and a lot of adrenaline involved with that.
Before that, I never had any problems with my elbow. It kind of caught me off guard and shocked me a little bit when I had that feeling. I threw a couple of pitches and knew that something wasn’t right. I just wasn’t comfortable with continuing so I kind of pulled the chute and got out of there but the stadium itself and the crowd was great. It was just kind of unfortunate that my elbow kind of flared up there.”
Travis Bergen struck out 11 batters with just one walk over 5-1/3 shutout innings with the C’s in 2015.
That was the start of Bergen’s troubles and he would see his next two seasons cut short as a result. His next action was just over a year later with three shutout innings over three appearances in the Gulf Coast League before returning to Vancouver to strike out two of the three men he faced July 23. Despite a hit and two walks, Bergen would put up another scoreless frame in Everett five days later but he would be shut down for the rest of the 2016 season.
“I’ve had a lot of problems with my elbow since I’ve been in pro ball. I hadn’t had any trouble with it beforehand and had never been an issue. Whatever it was, when I got drafted, it kind of started to bother me quite a bit.
We tried the rehabilitation route and it ended up not working. I had Tommy John on August 23rd of 2016 and I spent that next year doing the best that I could with the rehab and trying to get stronger and stay up to date with all the little monotonous exercises that you have to do every day that kind of strengthen your shoulder and that kind of stuff.
I tried to just take it one day at a time. If you kind of look too far down, down the road, you kind of get lost. I just tried to do the best I could with that particular day and kind of wake up and do it again. It was a tough situation but I think I learned a lot from it since then.”
Travis Bergen made his second appearance in Vancouver against the Eugene Emeralds on July 23, 2016.
Bergen got back on the hill in late July with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in late July 25 and added three more scoreless appearances before he scored upon in his ninth career outing. He was summoned to Vancouver again and was roughed up for three runs in Spokane in his C’s debut August 17. Bergen would bounce back with four shutout innings and five strikeouts in Everett to earn the victory against the AquaSox August 24. His season debut at the Nat was a success as he spun 3-2/3 scoreless frames to earn a hold against the Boise Hawks August 30. That outing surpassed his innings total in British Columbia from the last two years combined. Bergen was happy with his extended stay in Vancouver.
“It was cool. The first two years, I wasn’t there for longer than two weeks either time so I didn’t really didn’t get a chance to kind of get settled and enjoy the city itself. The last time I was able to do that. I had a little bit longer stay and I was finally healthy. I wasn’t really worried about my elbow as much.
The team was winning so it was a great clubhouse to be in. The last year ended up being a lot better than the first two for me because I didn’t have to worry about my elbow and that kind of stuff. I was able to have a lot more fun.”
Bergen continued his roll into the playoffs as he was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the North Division final against Spokane with three shutout frames. That game was played at Nat Bailey Stadium after a forest fire near Spokane forced the game to be moved.
“I’ve never been part of a ‘smoke-out’, that’s for sure so that was a little odd. I think as a team, we were all shocked that when they told us when it was time to go to the ballpark, that we were actually going back to Vancouver and play all three games there, that was a little interesting.
As far as the game, I just tried to give the team a chance to win. That’s all I do when I go out there. I just try to throw some strikes and force weak contact at that point. It was a really nice atmosphere to pitch in. The team was rolling pretty good and I was just out there having fun so I enjoyed it.”
Bergen said the fact they were the “visiting team” for Game 1 and had to wear their road grey pants didn’t really affect the C’s at tall.
“No, I don’t think so. I think that was probably a big advantage for us. It didn’t matter what colour of pants we were wearing. That home crowd, I think, really energized us. I think that played into our hands as well.”
Travis Bergen has worn #14, #22 and #23 over his three seasons with Vancouver.
2017 Northwest League Championship
Bergen made one more key contribution to the C’s championship drive with 2-2/3 shutout innings in Game 3 of the Northwest League final against the Eugene Emeralds. With four strikeouts to earn a hold in that contest, Bergen felt he was at the top of his game.
“I just remember all the games we played in the playoff series were really close. Everybody was locked in and trying to do the best they could. I enjoyed being in that spot. I was just trying to make good pitches, that’s all it was. At that point during the season, I was on a little bit of a roll and everything was pretty consistent. I was just trying to hit spots and that kind of stuff. The atmosphere of that playoff stretch was really cool. It was a nice feeling to be able to pitch during that situation.”
One night later, Bergen got to join in the dogpile as the C’s celebrated the 2017 Northwest League championship.
“We had a lot of fun. Myself, I was in the dugout. We came flying out there as quick as we could. From then on, we were just embracing each other and having a really cool time. A lot of us hadn’t experienced something like that so we just enjoyed it. We enjoyed the moment.
When we got back in the clubhouse, it was just a lot of fun and a lot of hard work kind of coming to a head and we really enjoyed it. “
Bergen was also impressed with the championship ring he received during spring training.
“It was special. I think the Blue Jays did a good job. During spring training, we had kind of a ceremony where all the teams in the organization that won the championship (Dunedin and Vancouver) got their rings at the same time. It was a cool experience to be able to do that. The ring itself is awesome. It’s a beautiful ring. They did a really good job with the details and the nuances of the ring itself. It was a cool experience.”
Travis Bergen did not allow a run in 12-2/3 innings over his three-year stint at Nat Bailey Stadium.
Bergen’s Pitching Repertoire
Bergen says he has a three-pitch repertoire that has featured a switch in his choice of breaking ball.
“I usually stick with a four-seam fastball and I throw kind of a regular 12-6 curveball and a changeup. In the past, it’s been more of a silder but I kind of transitioned a little bit more to a curveball. That’s what I’m going with now and I’m just trying to sharpen up all three of those pitches.”
At the time Bergen was drafted, there was some thought among the scouting community that he did not have a plus pitch in his arsenal. However, that has not stopped him from compiling a strikeout rate of nearly 13 per nine innings so far. Bergen feels he has the stuff to succeed.
“I think it’s good. I think it’s good enough to compete with. I feel that the curveball is a good out pitch for me. I like to use the changeup early in the count. I think I can get outs with the fastball and curveball.
“I do my best to try to get ahead in the count and trying to be offensive. I just try to mix it up, go in and out. I try to go in on hitters quite a bit to try to make them a little more uncomfortable. I just try to be as convicted as I can to each pitch and hopefully the result is good. I’m not sure why my strikeout (rate) has been good. I just try to make good pitches, that all I try to do.”
Even though analytics continue to be all the rage in baseball, Bergen admits he hasn’t really looked at how he does what he does.
“I think the front office has access to all those numbers but as a staff, we don’t necessarily look at that a ton. It’s available to us but we don’t look at it a whole heck of a lot.”
Pitching at Kennesaw State
Bergen singles out two coaches for helping him develop as a pitcher.
“I really enjoyed playing for my college coach Kevin Erminio at Kennesaw State. Right now I’m working with Mark Riggins here in Dunedin. He’s really helping me sharpen up and tighten up my game. Right now he’s helping me quite a bit. I think my college coach kind of got me into the situation where I could pitch professionally. Those two guys have helped quite a bit so far.”
Bergen joins fellow pitcher Chad Jenkins (2009 1st round) and catcher Max Pentecost (2014 1st round) as Kennesaw State Owls that have been drafted by Toronto. He admits he did not know a whole lot about the Blue Jays organization coming in.
“Not a ton. When I was drafted, I was in contact with Max pretty quick. He was just excited that it worked out the way that it did relatively quick after I was drafted and I was down here (in Dunedin) already. It’s just they kind of throw you in the fire but I had heard good things and all of those things ended up being true. Those two guys were really good for Kennesaw and they turned out to be really good pros too.”
So far, Bergen is continuing to get the job done on the mound with the Dunedin Blue Jays. He has posted an ERA of 2.00 and has struck out 27 while walking only six over 18 innings so far. If Bergen keeps it up, he could very well rejoin his former batterymate Pentecost again in New Hampshire.
“If I ever got the chance, that would be cool. I always enjoyed pitching to him in college. He’s a great player and makes his teammates better and the people around him better. If I ever got the chance to be his teammate again, that would be a lot of fun.”
Bergen Looking Ahead
As for what Bergen hopes to accomplish in 2018, it all starts with staying on the mound.
“The biggest thing for me is just to stay healthy and to take care of my body. That one is first and foremost because I missed quite a bit of time with my elbow. I’m just trying to develop all of my pitches. Just kind of doing the best I can when I’m out there and learn from each outing. Learn from outings that don’t go as well and try to make them better each time. Really, I’m just trying to sharpen everything up and have fun. That’s about it as far as goals go.”
My thanks again to Travis Bergen for taking part in this episode of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @TBergen_. A big thank you goes to Dunedin Blue Jays Media Relations Coordinator Daniel Venn for coordinating the interview. He can be found on Twitter @GalapagosDan.