Richard Bleier trying to impress not assume
Over 119 innings in 111 major league games, Richard Bleier has turned in a career 1.97 ERA. He was one of former manager Buck Showalter’s more dependable relievers and although he appeared in just 31 games last season, his 1.6 WAR was good for third best on the team.
A lat-injury ended his season in mid-June, but Bleier gave up just seven runs over 32.2 innings, finishing his season with a 1.93 ERA. Over his first 17 outings, opposing batters hit just .225 against him and he only allowed one run in 22.2 innings pitched.
Recovered from successful lat surgery, Bleier has been rehabbing for months and is keeping a positive outlook on being ready for Opening Day. Back in January at FanFest, he told the media, “As far as the scheduling goes, the scheduling is for opening day, so unless there’s any setbacks or anything, which I hope there’s not, I think I should be ready.”
And after tossing his third bullpen session yesterday morning, everything seems to be aligning for the 31-year-old left-hander. Manager Brandon Hyde told MASN’s Roch Kubatko, “We’re just going to be careful with him. He’s obviously really important to our club. All the reports are everything went really well today. I stood behind and watched him. The ball was coming out great.”
After his side-session yesterday morning, Bleier told the media, “I’ve been here since January, it’s been a little lonely here that’s for sure. It’s great for everyone to be here now and finally to just get started and pitch again as opposed to just rehabbing.”
“I feel like I can just do a normal Spring Training in terms of progression and pitching, as opposed to just throwing,” Bleier said. “It’s been going well here especially now that I’ve been off the mound four times, so it’s definitely going well.”
Still, having seemingly recovered from his season-ending injury last year and carrying a sub-2 ERA into his third season as an Oriole, Bleier isn’t willing to assume he’s already made the 25-man roster. “For me, just how things have gone my whole career, it’s always been trying to get a spot. I just come in looking at it the same way. I’m not taking anything for granted.”
“I have a new arm, pretty much,” Bleier joked. “I’m kind of a new pitcher just trying to prove myself to a new coaching staff and front office. That’s worked for me in the past and I’ll continue to do that.”
Much like others in camp this spring, Bleier is impressed with the new coaching staff. “I enjoyed Buck and Dan,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong they did a good job. Obviously things didn’t go the way we wanted to last year but these guys are really good. They’re bringing different things to the table for the players [with] different kinds of information that I think will benefit us in the long run.”
Bleier was a sixth-round pick in 2006 by the Texas Rangers, He spent five seasons in the Rangers organization before being chosen in the 2013 Rule-5 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. After minor league stints with the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees, he was traded to the Orioles in February of 2017. Turning 32 in April, Bleier is currently the oldest pitcher on the 40-man roster, just a few months ahead of starter, Andrew Cashner.
He now is ready to assume a veteran role and help mentor some of the younger pitchers in camp. “By default, I don’t think I’d be considered a veteran on a lot of other teams,” he said. “But, just because we have such a young team, I think, as [I’m in] my third year with the Orioles now, I think I’ll be able to offer a little bit of information if guys need it.”
“I think we’re all still trying to find our way and really establish ourselves in the big leagues and I think it’s a great opportunity for a lot of guys to do so, myself included.”