“Definitely a surprise,” Bleier said. "Caught me off guard."
A multipurpose reliever who could profile as a left-handed specialist if need be, Bleier, 33, is 8-1 with a 2.99 ERA in 166 appearances over the past five seasons, four coming with the Orioles. He posted a 1.97 ERA over his first three seasons before undergoing lat surgery in 2018, then pitched to a career-high 5.37 ERA in 53 games in '19.
Fully healthy again this year, Bleier was yet to allow a run in two appearances for the Orioles. The sinkerballer ranked among the top American League relievers in ground-ball rate each of the past three seasons.
“He is someone who has occupied a very prominent place in the recent history of this team,” said Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. “He’s been through good runs here and has been a leader in the bullpen. He’s just an Oriole, so it's tough to see him leave, but it's part of the process and transition this club is going through.”
Bleier spent parts of nine seasons in the Minors before debuting with the Yankees in 2016, arriving in Baltimore via trade the following February. He blossomed into an integral part of the O's relief corps almost immediately, with a 1.99 ERA in '17 and a 1.93 mark in '18.
“I am extremely thankful for Baltimore and the organization and all they’ve done for me,” Bleier said. “They gave me an extended opportunity in the big leagues and then really gave me another opportunity coming off a down year to get back to the status I was at before. It has been a really enjoyable ride here with Baltimore, and I am thankful for that.”
Baltimore had four scheduled games postponed this week against the Marlins, whose season is currently suspended after a number players tested positive for COVID-19. Bleier, who is from and resides in South Florida, said he expects to arrive to a safe environment with his new team.
“I’m glad I have value to another team, but this is such a comfort for me in Baltimore," he said. "I am going to miss it. I know all the guys, I know all the staff, I’ve been around everybody for years. Before Baltimore, I was bouncing around between organizations. Being the new guy isn’t as fun as being the guy who has been around for a long time. I’m looking forward to pitching for the Marlins, but on the other hand I will miss Baltimore."
Elias said the Marlins expressed interest in Bleier both before the season started and in the early portion of Summer Camp, though their pursuit likely intensified given their current roster maneuvering due to a number of positive COVID-19 tests. Baltimore's return -- and the completion of the deal -- is unlikely to be known for some time, as only individuals in clubs’ 60-man player pools can be traded during the season.