Reliever Richard Bleier has often been an afterthought – in his career and, for a while, with the Orioles.
He’s a lefty specialist, a guy who didn’t throw hard, but somehow got outs consistently.
The New York Yankees traded him to the Orioles in February 2017 despite Bleier’s good numbers in 2016 (1.96 ERA in 23 innings).
And in 2017, Bleier posted a 1.99 ERA in 57 games for the Orioles, but still was concerned about making the team this spring.
You can make the argument that Bleier, who is now used in any situation by manager Buck Showalter, could be the Orioles’ most valuable pitcher so far.
He leads the team in appearances with 31 and has another tidy ERA, 1.93.
But now a chunk of his season could be in doubt after he left Wednesday’s game with a lat injury.
We’ll know more about the severity in the coming days, but losing Bleier for an extended period of time is a tough blow for several reasons.
One, Bleier isn’t just a lefty specialist. But the guys who may have to replace him – Tanner Scott and/or Donnie Hart – are. Or they are at least much better versus lefties than righties so far in their careers.
If Showalter has to play more batter-by-batter matchups, that’s going to put a real strain on how Showalter juggles his bullpen.
And even though Darren O’Day and Zach Britton are back, the roles are still jumbled while Britton shakes off the rust and Mychal Givens attempts to regain his consistency.
Bleier didn’t get a lot of fanfare, but he really helped stabilize a normally rock-solid bunch that has uncharacteristically struggled. His presence made it easier for Showalter to pick his spots for others. And, let’s face it, how some of these guys do in the next few weeks – pending free agents Britton and Brad Brach in particular – reaches much further than a few extra wins in a lost season.
Rasmus update, sort of
Showalter was asked Wednesday afternoon about outfielder Colby Rasmus, who is rehabbing his injured hip at High-A Frederick. The Keys had a doubleheader Tuesday and Rasmus had just two at-bats total.
There’s been no injury setback, Showalter said. Rasmus has been determining how much he plays as he tries to make it back to the majors. And he decided to play part of one game.
“I’m pretty sure he’s kind of setting his own schedule from what I understand. Just one game (of the doubleheader), I don’t know the particulars of it,” Showalter said. “Until we get closer to his date coming up (his rehab should end after 20 days, which would be June 20th), I’ll pay a lot more (attention) … find out the whys.”
If that strikes you as a weird response, well, it is. To me, it’s telling.
Rasmus has had five hits (.167 average), two walks and nine strikeouts in his first 30 at-bats in his rehab assignment at Frederick and Double-A Bowie. He had two hits in 21 at-bats (and 13 strikeouts) with the Orioles before he hit the DL.
There really doesn’t seem to be much of a place for the 31-year-old Rasmus with the Orioles, and you can glean that from Showalter’s relaxed attitude about Rasmus’ rehab. But the club is paying Rasmus $3 million this year, so he likely will be back at some point.
There doesn’t seem to be a rush to make that happen, though.
Beckham to Bowie; Hays still hurting
In contrast to the Rasmus nonchalance was Showalter’s specific info on infielder Tim Beckham, who is headed to Bowie on Friday to begin a rehab assignment after undergoing core muscle surgery in late April.
Beckham can come off the 60-day DL on June 23, and Showalter is hopeful that will happen. Showalter is also hopeful that the groin issues that led to the surgery will now be completely fixed and won’t be a reoccurring problem.
Not as good news on outfield prospect Austin Hays, who is on the disabled list at Double-A Bowie due to an ankle injury. Showalter said doctors recommended that Hays’ foot remain in a boot for two more weeks. So, don’t expect Hays, who has hit just .224 at Bowie when healthy, to be coming to Baltimore anytime soon.
Still not the worst — yet
By dropping their seventh straight Wednesday, the Orioles fell to 19-48 through 67 games.
No adjectives left to illustrate how awful that is.
But it isn’t quite historic – in a franchise-sense. The 1988 and 2010 Orioles were both 18-49 through 67 games. So, these Orioles aren’t the franchise’s worst at this point. There is still a chance, though. They are within losing distance.
Regardless, the Orioles have made up a lot of ground on that 1988 club, which dropped 21 consecutive to begin the season and ended with a franchise-worst 107 losses.
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