Berger wants to make a push for the bigs
Akron Aeros left-handed pitcher Eric Berger is looking for a bounce back season. Selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 8th round of the 2008 draft, Berger went 5-6 with a 4.90 ERA in 23 starts between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus in 2010. After spending time in the Arizona Fall League and teaching kids baseball over the offseason, the 25-year-old is ready to prove the Indians that he can help the team. And, oh yeah, he’s also sporting something new this season.
“I grew a beard in the offseason, I was just kind of roughing it a little bit because I was able to. Then I shaved it and just left the ‘stache. Enjoying the look,” Berger said of his mustache which has a Rollie Fingers-esce curl to it. “The guys are too. I’m just rolling with it, enjoying it.”
After having rough months of April and May in 2010, in which Berger went 1-4 with a 7.73 ERA in seven starts, from June on, things got better and Berger’s ERA was a respectable 3.92 in 16 starts.
After the season ended, Berger pitched in the Arizona Fall League –from the bullpen. An experience he really learned a lot from.
“It was great,” Berger said on pitching in the AFL. “I went to U of A too, so I’m familiar with Arizona and spring training’s out there. To be just teamed up with other guys in other organizations and playing around Arizona was really great. The competition and the players were really, really good.”
After being drafted from the University of Arizona, Berger adjusted well to the professional hitters sporting a 2-0 record in eight starts with a 2.12 ERA with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Low-A). In 34 innings, he struck out 41 batters while walking just nine.
“Going from the Pack 10 and starting out at Mahoning Valley was a good transformation. It was nice to get away from metal bats and go to wood. I think a lot of pitchers like that. And to just work up the ranks, there’s things you have to refine at every level. It was a good process. Obviously, the players get better at every level, so you have to as well. You have to adjust.”
While most players like to spend their offseason just vacationing, Berger spent his giving back and doing something he really enjoys –teaching pitching lessons. It’s something he has been doing in the offseason since college.
“When I shut my arm down, I like to work with kids because at least I’m speaking about mechanics, to keep it somewhat fresh.”
Just 25-years old, and with a long career still ahead of him, is coaching or teaching something Berger would aspire to do once it’s over?
“I don’t know how good of a coach I’d be, to be honest with you,” Berger said, laughing. “I think I could teach pitching mechanics. It’s a lot different than knowing a situation in a game. I think there are guys that are better than me at coaching. I look at it as helping kids out, giving back to the younger generation and passing along what I’ve learned so the next generation can keep baseball strong and America’s Past Time.”
This season with the Akron Aeros, Berger is 1-0 in four appearances (one start) with a 3.12 ERA. The lefty has struck out 11 while allowing just four hits over 8.2 innings. Primarily used as a starter last season, Berger is enjoying his new role out of the ‘pen.
“I don’t,” Berger said on if he had a preference between starting or relieving. “Starting is cool because you know when you’re starting, you know when you’re pitching. But I like relieving too because I get more appearances’. It sucks to sit out for four days, but as a reliever, you get the chance to play everyday. So that is the one thing I like about that as well.”
“I just want to continue pitching well,” Berger said on his goals for this season. “Whether it’s as a reliever or a starter. And show Cleveland that I want to make a push for the big leagues in this upcoming year, or next year.”
*Photo credit: clevescene