One of the biggest losses for the Orioles last year came when reliever Richard Bleier injured his lat muscle on June 13. The muscle was injured so badly it required surgery.
Bleier was in the midst of his second strong season with the Orioles, and it went unnoticed because everything else on the ballclub went south.
In 31 games, the left-hander was 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA. Bleier walked just four batters in 32 1/3 innings and didn’t allow a home run.
A year before, Bleier was 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 57 games.
In one of former general manager Dan Duquette’s better moves, Bleier was acquired from the New York Yankees for cash in February 2017.
Bleier said he expects to be ready for Opening Day.
“It’s coming along extremely well,” Bleier said at Saturday’s FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center. “It’s definitely been a long process.”
Bleier began throwing just after the season ended. He threw for a month, then took a month off, and resumed throwing again to get ready for spring training.
After his surgery, Bleier came to Yankee Stadium on July 31 and he talked about his recovery. But the story was overlooked because minutes later, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop were traded.
“It was definitely an interesting situation,” Bleier said. “After I got hurt, I went to do my rehab, and it was a whole new team. Even now, some of these guys who were in the big leagues for a month, I’m meeting for the first time.”
Last year, the Orioles’ bullpen looked to be a strength but injuries to Bleier, Zach Britton and Darren O’Day hurt them. By the end of July, Britton, O’Day and Brad Brach were traded. Now, Bleier and Mychal Givens are the bullpen veterans.
“Obviously, we lost a lot of great players,” Bleier said. “Hopefully, the next people pick up the slack coming in behind them, and we can only get better from where we were last season, in my opinion. We’ve got that going for us.”
For a time last season when Britton was hurt, Bleier was the only left-hander in the bullpen. Now, Bleier could be joined by Paul Fry and Tanner Scott, who pitched when he was on the disabled list.
Donnie Hart and John Means are also contenders to make the club.
“I think in today’s game, you have to be able to get lefties and righties out,” Bleier said.
Twenty-eight of the 36 hits Bleier gave up last year were singles. Right-handers batted .288 against him, left-handers .283.
“It doesn’t really matter if we have three lefties and four righties because everybody’s got to be able to get everybody out,” Bleier said. “I think that everybody in the bullpen will be able to get lefties and righties out.”
Bleier had an extended stay in the minor leagues, and at 31 isn’t eligible for arbitration.
“We’ve worked so hard our whole lives to get to this point, and all of a sudden, no matter what you do or what you think, you’re not ready for it,” Bleier said.
“For me, the comfortable part was on the mound my rookie year,” Bleier said. “And everything else, like knowing where to go, what to do, who to talk to, who not to talk to, when to eat, all these unwritten rules was the hard part for me.”
Adding to the infield
The Orioles acquired another infielder, Jack Reinheimer, on waivers from the Texas Rangers. He’s the fifth infielder general manger Mike Elias has added since last month.
Reinheimer was 5-for-35 (.143) in 23 games over the last two seasons with Arizona and the New York Mets.
Elias has also picked up Rio Ruiz, Rule 5 draft choices Richie Martin and Drew Jackson, and Hanser Alberto for infield depth.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated right-handed pitcher Austin Brice for assignment. Brice was acquired on waivers on Jan. 4.
Besides the five infielders competing for a job, the Orioles have utilityman Steve Wilkerson and three non-roster players, Jace Peterson, Chris Bostick and Zach Vincej.
Orioles head groundskeeper Nicole Sherry was presented with the Dick Ericson award, given to a Sports Turf Managers Association member “who effectively manages sports fields and their facility and exhibits the qualities of a true team leader,” according to the STMA.
Sherry was recognized at the STMA National Conference in Phoenix.