The Orioles 2018 roster was filled with disappointments. Unfortunately, even a few of the bright spots came with caveats. Richard Bleier shined for Baltimore in an increased role, but his season came to an abrupt end in mid-June.
The Orioles acquired Bleier for a player to be named later in February of 2017. Bleier had been designated for assignment by the Yankees, and the Dan Duquette/Buck Showalter duo scooped him up. The relief pitcher will go down as one of the last bargain pickups of the previous administration.
Bleier made his MLB debut for New York in May of 2016, and pitched sporadically in low-leverage situations. He finished the season without a decision, but held a 1.96 ERA through 23 innings.
Bleier began 2017 at Triple-A Norfolk, but it only took five games for him to earn a promotion to Baltimore. The lefty began to build trust with Showalter, and he proved himself time and time again over the course of the year.
Bleier finished 2017 with a 2-1 record and a 1.99 ERA. At times he was summoned as a situational left hander, but he showed an ability to pitch up to two innings with ease. He made the fourth most appearances of Orioles relievers.
His first year in Baltimore led to expectations for 2018, and Bleier was up to the challenge. The now 31-year old delivered with a 3-0 record with a 1.93 ERA. Unfortunately, his season came to a screeching halt with a lat injury in June. The Orioles placed Bleier on the 60-day DL with a left lat strain that required surgery.
Bleier didn’t waste any time getting his name out there this past season. He picked up the win on opening day by pitching a scoreless 11th-inning against the Minnesota Twins. After picking up his third win against the Royals on May 9, Bleier reduced his ERA to 0.40 in 17 appearances.
The lefty only allowed earned runs in four of 31 appearances. That’s better than just LOOGY stuff. This guy can pitch. He didn’t take the fast track to the big leagues, but he’s announced his presence.
Bleier gave credit to Showalter and Duquette in an October 3 article by Jon Meoli. He spoke about how the organization gave everyone an opportunity to prove themselves.
“I was 30 at the time with 23 innings in the big leagues,” he said. “I think that gives people the idea that they really are going to give guys deserving of an opportunity an opportunity.”
Bleier got his opportunity, and he made the most of it.
Because of his delayed start to his big league career, Bleier will be arbitration eligible in 2020 and a free agent in 2023. The Orioles paid the Davie, Florida native only $556,000 this past season.
Between his team-friendly contract situation and quality production, Bleier will be an extremely attractive trade candidate if he can reestablish himself after the injury. That being said, Bleier and Mychal Givens could be the next generation of Baltimore bullpen anchors.
Any talented reliever on this pitching-starved team will generate the same question, “Can he start?” But with Bleier returning from an injury, the Orioles likely will not entertain the thought of stretching out the lefty. That being said, we still don’t know who will be calling the shots in Baltimore.
For now, Bleier is a reliever with three straight sub-two ERA seasons. That commands respect. The Orioles will wait and see if he can repeat those numbers after bouncing back from the lat strain.