Bleier makes long-awaited return to mound

Lefty reports no pain in spring debut following lat surgery last summer

March 10th, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Since his Major League debut in 2016, few have pitched as well and to as little fanfare as . Only and boast better ERAs in that span (minimum 100 innings) than Bleier, whose 1.97 mark ranks third among full-time relievers, just ahead of superstar . Bleier doesn't have the flashiest stuff or the biggest name. He simply emerged, in his early 30s, as one of baseball's best at limiting runs.

Which is why the image of Bleier jogging in from the right-field bullpen Saturday night proved such a welcome sight for the Orioles. Eight months removed from serious lat surgery, Bleier reported no pain after working two-thirds of an inning in an Orioles split-squad's 6-1 loss to the Yankees. It was his first game action since June.

"I feel great right now," Bleier said. "I was really pumped. It honestly felt like my debut in 2016. I was pretty pumped to get back on the mound, so that was fun. I think after the first pitch it was like, 'All right, my arm's still attached to my body.'"

That fact heavily outweighed Bleier's final line (three runs, one earned), which was sullied by two misplayed grounders and a pair of soft doubles. More important was that he emerged from his 19-pitch effort pain-free, after months of uncertainty and grueling rehab. More tests await in the days to come, like how well Bleier recovers and whether he can build up enough innings to be ready for Opening Day. But barring setbacks, he appears on track to do so.

If healthy, the Orioles are banking on Bleier to stabilize a bullpen set to feature a slew of inexperienced arms. Baltimore relievers ranked 27th in baseball with a 4.78 in ERA in 2018, largely with Bleier on the shelf.

"I feel ready now," Bleier said. "Now it's time to get ready for the season."

From the trainer's room
Cleared by a clean MRI on his left hip flexor, spent a significant chunk of Saturday afternoon hitting in the indoor batting cage at the Orioles' spring complex. It marked the first baseball activities since March 3 for Davis, whom Hyde said is scheduled to return to game action either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Worth noting
• The Orioles are accommodating with a slight scheduling change due to some excellent personal news: Cobb's wife, Kelly, gave birth to a girl on Friday night, the couple's first child. Because of the new addition, Cobb will forgo his next scheduled start for a simulated game on the backfields at the club's complex. Cobb had been slated to pitch Tuesday in Tampa against the Yankees.

continues to progress from soreness in his left oblique that has limited the catcher to six games this spring. The next step is to test it throwing, which Wynns will do Sunday. If all goes well, he'll swing a bat next week with an eye toward returning to game action after that.

• While half remained in Sarasota to face the Yankees, another Orioles faction powered through to a wild, 17-15 split-squad win over the Rays in Port Charlotte. The two teams combined to collect 28 hits, sock seven home runs and commit nine errors in that back-and-forth affair. , and homered for the O’s, though Cervenka also committed three errors behind the plate.

Contract news
There was no renewal drama this spring for the Orioles, who announced Saturday that they agreed to one-year contracts with all 30 of their pre-arbitration-eligible players. The club signed the following players to deals:

Pitchers: Pedro Araujo, Richard Bleier, Cody Carroll, Miguel Castro, Paul Fry, Hunter Harvey, David Hess, Branden Kline, John Means, Luis Ortiz, Evan Phillips, Yefry Ramirez, Josh Rogers, Tanner Scott, Dillon Tate, Mike Wright, Jimmy Yacabonis

Infielders: Drew Jackson, Richie Martin, Renato Nunez, Rio Ruiz, Stevie Wilkerson

Outfielders: Austin Hays, Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, Joey Rickard, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart

Catchers: Chance Sisco, Austin Wynns

Up next
The Orioles will get their first look at newly acquired on Sunday, when they plan to plug the outfielder into their lineup against the Phillies at Ed Smith Stadium. Rotation candidate Josh Rogers will oppose a Philadelphia lineup without Bryce Harper, who isn't scheduled to make the trip. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. ET.