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Record not highlight for new Cubs pitcher

9/21/2012

CHICAGO -- There is nothing like tying a major-league record in your second career start with a new team.

For new Chicago Cubs pitcher Jason Berken, though, the record was so obscure it almost went unnoticed.

The right-hander, who was acquired off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles earlier this month, matched a major league mark when he struck out four batters in the second inning.

He started the top of the second with a strikeout of Denis Phipps before moving on to strike out Ryan Hanigan. But because of a wild pitch on the third strike, Hanigan was able to reach first base. Berken then rebounded by striking out Didi Gregorious and fellow pitcher Johnny Cueto.

“Honestly I didn’t realize it until I sat back down in the dugout,” Berken said. “It was cool, I guess. By no means am I going for strikeouts. For me it’s important to force the early contact and have the ability to pitch deep in the game. But in that inning I threw some good sliders and got ahead in the count. I got the strikeouts, but I’m not going to get used to that.”

Berken is now the fifth Cubs pitcher ever to strike out four in an inning. The last to do it was Ryan Dempster on the last day of the 2009 season against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Kerry Wood (2002), Bill Bonham (1974) and Jim David (1956) also did it.

What was more important to Berken moving forward was the fact that he gave up just two hits over six scoreless innings. Any impression he can make over the final month will be key for him moving into next season.

“It was one start, but it’s important for me to build off this and put together another one after this,” said Berken, who is lined up to make two more outings before the end of the season. “There is always something to prove. I’m never comfortable and will never assume something. For me it’s a matter of stringing together a couple of more good starts and go into the offseason on a positive note.”

Despite the fact that he was with the contending Orioles just a month ago and is now with the rebuilding Cubs, Berken only sees the positives.

“I’m extremely happy for those guys and have a lot of good friends on that team,” Berken said. “It’s a great city and a great organization. I don’t think anybody over there is surprised, including myself.

“But like I said, I am very happy to be here and this opportunity for me is not something I take lightly. I want to take advantage of it and I’m thrilled to be a Cub. It means a lot to be here and the opportunity I’m getting is appreciated.”