Is Berken lurkin' around All-Star berth?

Michael Gonzalez's fastball was clocked again at 90-91 mph yesterday, according to a team official, during his start at Aberdeen. Gonzalez allowed two hits, including a two-run homer, in one inning against Brooklyn.

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Most pitching staffs on All-Star teams are comprised of starters and closers. You also might find the random set-up guy.

Relievers like Jason Berken largely go ignored.

Berken has the numbers to warrant strong consideration, but not the role.

He was a long man who became a middle man who became a valuable late-inning man. He's being used in shorter spurts, and he's dominating.

Berken's ERA is down to 1.66 after another scoreless inning yesterday. He's allowed two earned runs in his last 13 appearances covering 17 1/3 innings. And he's taking the ball in pressure situations.

"The experience I got last year was a big help for me," said Berken, who's walked 12 and struck out 32 in 43 1/3 innings and held left-handers to a .185 average.

"I took my ups and downs last year. This year, I've just been trying to stay consistent. I've been able to get into a pretty good routine. I've been able to find a good groove with what I need to do every day. I've been throwing a lot of strikes. Last year, I was falling into a lot of 2-0, 3-1 counts. This year, I've been able to get ahead.

"My slider has been a big help, as well, being able to put guys away with that pitch and being able to throw it behind in the count, too. A combination of that and getting some confidence goes a long way."

The league average ERA for relievers is 4.16.

Berken has been anything but average this season.

We'll find out later whether he's an All-Star.

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