BALTIMORE -- On the heels of a puzzling post-surgery stretch during which his arm hasn’t responded as hoped, Richard Bleier is pressing pause. The Orioles placed Bleier on the 10-day injured list Thursday, as the left-hander is dealing with shoulder tendinitis.
The ailment, the Orioles believe, is at least somewhat related to the torn left lat that Bleier suffered last June, with Bleier calling it “just part of the process” of recovering from such a serious injury. He is nearly 10 months removed from the procedure, and is headed to the club’s complex in Sarasota, Fla., to rehab in a controlled environment.
Neither Bleier nor Orioles manager Brandon Hyde placed a concrete timetable on his return.
“It’s tough to try to get back to 100 percent here in the big leagues. It’s obviously not working,” Bleier said. “Throughout this process there have been various states of progression, and I feel like I am one step away from being back to normal. I’m close, I’m just not there yet.”
The team has been considering hitting what manager Brandon Hyde called “a reset button” on Bleier since Tuesday, when Bleier reported discomfort after surrendering a career-high four runs in a 13-2 loss to the A’s. He’s allowed seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings (14.54 ERA) so far in 2019, after breaking camp healthy and ahead of schedule rehab-wise.
“I think I was probably over ambitious with Opening Day," Bleier said. "Spring went well, so its kind of hard to say it was a bad idea. But the way I felt, the way I was responding, I could kind of tell I needed more time.”
The Orioles recalled left-hander Tanner Scott from Triple-A Norfolk to replace Bleier on the roster. Right-hander Josh Lucas also was recalled Thursday as a corresponding move for lefty Josh Rogers, who was optioned following Wednesday’s 10-3 loss to Oakland. Scott posted an elite 12.8-per-nine strikeout rate but also issued 4.6 walks per nine and pitched to a 5.40 ERA in 53 games as a rookie in 2018.
At the epicenter of all this bullpen turnover is Bleier, who the Orioles hope will help anchor the unit once healthy again. A Minor League journeyman when acquired in February 2017 from the Yankees, Bleier spent the past two seasons emerging as one of the best run-suppressers in baseball, and one of the least conventional. In an era of high velocity, Bleier posted a 1.97 ERA over his first 88 appearances in Baltimore by using his signature sinker to elicit huge chunks of soft contact. His 65.3-percent ground-ball rate in 2017-18 ranked fourth among MLB relievers with at least 90 innings pitched. His ground-ball rate this season is 11.1 percent, in a small sample.
“I’ll continue to try to build on what I’ve been doing and get my fastball back,” Bleier said, "my sinker back sinking.”