WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. - For the first time in his professional career, Dusty Bergman is an all-star, and he's loving every minute of it.
Bergman, the 1996 Carson High graduate, has compiled a 5-3 record and a 2.44 ERA for the Salt Lake Stingers in the hitting-rich Pacific Coast League. Those numbers earned him a spot in tonight's Triple-A All-Star game (7:15 p.m., ESPN2) at Raley Field.
"This is the first time, period," he said after Tuesday's workout. "Last year they took the starters with the best ERAs. It's a great honor. I'm glad I get to represent our team.
"My control is good, and I'm getting people out . I'm throwing breaking balls (for strikes) and that makes it easier. Yes, the last two years have been the best in my career."
The ability to throw the breaking ball for strikes has been key for the former Carson left-hander. Bergman said he was able to get by without a good off-speed or breaking pitch earlier in his career because of his ability to work both sides of the plate with his fastball.
"I've been throwing the breaking ball real good," Bergman said. "I went to Fall Instructional League in Arizona during the last off-season.
"I went there specifically to work on the two-seam sinker and my breaking ball. That's all I threw. When forced to throw just those two pitches makes a big difference."
Bergman said Eric Bennett, who was the pitching coach at Cedar Rapids (Single-A), helped him immensely.
"I'm definitely a better pitcher this year," Bergman said. "I have to keep getting better or you have to call it quits."
The 27-year-old Bergman, who now throws a four-seam fastball, a two-seam sinker and a slider, wants no part of leaving the game. He is hoping for another opportunity to get back on the Angels' roster.
What makes Bergman's numbers all the more impressive is that he doesn't have a defined role out of the bullpen, which could be tough for some guys to handle. Not Bergman. He'll take the ball anytime during any part of the game.
"Right now, my role is whatever the team needs that day," Bergman said. "One night it might be closing, the next day it might be set-up man and the next game I could be the first guy out of the bullpen. Greg Jones recently came off the disabled list, so I've been setting him up, and that has worked well."
Bergman, who was a starter at times in the early part of his career, has certainly found his niche coming out of the bullpen.
"Pitching once a week, if you have a bad outing, you are thinking about it until you're back out there," Bergman said. "Out of the bullpen, you might throw three or four days in a row. If you have a bad outing, you have a chance to redeem yourself the next day."
Bergman, who was called up last year when the Angels' bullpen was hit by injuries, would love to redeem himself for a shaky debut. The Angels lost three relievers all within a week of each other, and Bergman was promoted.
The young lefty was shelled for three runs and four hits in his opening inning. He threw a scoreless second inning, but didn't get another opportunity before being sent back down to Salt Lake.
"That's not how you want to start your Big League debut; a big fly ball and five straight hits," Bergman said. "I settled down. I gave up a hit the next inning and then got three outs.
"I would have liked another shot. We had eight (more) games and two or three went extra innings and I still didn't get in."
Bergman is no longer on the Angels' 40-man roster, but he doesn't believe that's why he hasn't been called up this year.
"The Angels don't care," said Bergman, who is 34-46 with nine career saves in his seven-year career in the minors. "Only one guy that has been called up this year has been on their 40-man roster.
"I'd like to get a legitimate shot; hopefully a September call-up. I'd like to get in for more than just one game."
Bergman said he got specific instructions from Angels' pitching coach Bud Black during spring training.
"He said I needed to dominate left-handers," Bergman said. "Thus far I have not. I think batters (left-handed) are hitting .340. That's not what they are looking for. The right-handers are hitting .260."
Bergman knows that getting outs are the key, and if he can keep doing that, another call-up will be in his future. Until then, he'll keep his thoughts to business at hand, and hopefully that means leading the Stingers to a division title.