Berken up the right tree

One of the keys to Jason Berken’s improvement this spring is his sudden ability to slow his pace and regain control.

He was in total control last night, blanking the Twins on two hits over four innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.

Berken, competing for the fifth starter’s job or a long relief role, has allowed four runs in 12 2/3 innings this spring.

“Last year, I felt like the game would get going so quick, I’d blink and there would be four runs on the board,” he said. “This year, I’ve been able to kind of slow it down, and if things do get going too quick, I’ve had the ability to slow it down a lot faster.

“I’ve been able to trust my pitches a little more and I’ve been consistently in the strike zone and thrown a lot of strikes.”

There’s more to the story. Berken also is getting better results with his slider.

“My slider has been the big difference for me,” he said. “Last year, the thing that hurt me is I’d get ahead of guys and I couldn’t put them away. This year, I feel like I’ve been able to put them away. I’m not getting a ton of strikeouts, but I’ve been able to get guys off balance and put the ball in play with my slider. I know when I get two strikes that I can go to that pitch. Last year, I didn’t have that pitch I could go to.”

Manager Dave Trembley pointed out earlier today that Berken has gotten “everybody’s attention.”

“You have to pull for him,” Trembley said. “He’s short in a lot of areas, and I don’t mean in stature. His stuff probably isn’t as good as a lot of the other guys, but he has a plan, he sticks to it, he competes. He located very well last night.

“There is something to be said for pitching with his heart and his guts and I think he did that, so he earned a lot of respect. Whether or not it translates into him making the team or not, we’ll see.”

Meanwhile, David Hernandez retired the side in order in the first inning, striking out Dustin Pedroia for the second out. Hernandez threw 14 pitches, 10 for strikes.

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