Perhaps it’s because the timing of the injury and surgery came a month before the All-Star break and there were so many other issues with the club that it got lost in the pile.
He wasn’t the closer or primary setup man. He didn’t start. He just kept getting outs and brought some order to a bullpen that otherwise seemed to live in a constant state of chaos.
Zach Britton’s Achilles surgery set the wheels in motion - as they came off the cart. Relievers were bumped up and placed in roles that didn’t always bring out the best in them. Didn’t always play to their strengths.
Factor in Darren O’Day’s injuries, with hamstring surgery ending his season after a June 26 appearance, and Showalter was in full scramble mode to piece together a nine-inning game.
Bleier made it easier. He was scored upon this year in only four of his 31 outings and didn’t allow a run in 19 1/3 consecutive innings April 7-May 9 - tied for the 11th-longest streak in the American League.
Who got the win on opening day? The same pitcher who has registered an ERA under 2.00 in all three of his major league seasons, the first with the Yankees.
Former executive vice president Dan Duquette made some tremendous under-the-radar acquisitions during his tenure in Baltimore, and Bleier ranks near the top.
The Yankees designated Bleier for assignment and traded him on Feb. 21, 2017 for a player to be named later or cash after he allowed only five earned runs in 23 innings. Some of the Orioles who faced Bleier over three appearances recommended him to Showalter and various officials.
It’s turned into a nice success story, with Bleier spending parts of nine seasons in the minors with the Rangers, Blue Jays, Nationals and Yankees before finally debuting in the majors on May 30, 2016 in Toronto. He still had a minor league option when the Yankees parted with him, making the trade even more curious.
Bleier was the fourth acquisition by Duquette in a span of four days toward the end of spring training. He signed outfielder Craig Gentry to a minor league deal, traded for left-hander Vidal Nuño and re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league deal.
They can’t all be winners.
If there’s anything positive to come from Bleier’s surgery, which jeopardizes his availability for opening day, it’s how the Orioles were able to take extended looks at left-handers Tanner Scott, Paul Fry and Sean Gilmartin.
Scott is fighting to gain consistency and a foothold on a major league job. The development of his slider to complement his upper-90s fastball has increased his chances of sticking. So did the 53 appearances he made this year, often in situations that would have been reserved for Bleier.
Fry made his major league debut on June 29 and posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.274 WHIP in 35 games. He surrendered only one home run in 37 2/3 innings, allowed only two earned runs with two walks and 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings in July and didn’t allow a hit or run over three innings in each of his last two appearances.
A new manager will form his own opinions, but Fry looks like he can be a bullpen piece in 2019.
Gilmartin had to win over Showalter and appeared to gain the manager’s trust, a pitching shortage in September leaving him with little choice but to use the former first-round pick.
In a stretch of three appearances Sept. 12-24, Gilmartin tossed three scoreless innings, allowed one run and two hits in 4 2/3 innings and threw four scoreless innings with only one hit surrendered.
I would have given him a start down the stretch with the rotation hemorrhaging fuel, but he never made it out of the bullpen.
Meanwhile, and on a completely separate topic, a big shakeup is anticipated in the scouting department after the Orioles make their front office hires. Staff increases are coming on the professional, amateur and international sides, and there are no assurances that current director of scouting Gary Rajsich will return in 2019.
Jobs can’t be promised to anyone until the Orioles decide on a president of baseball operations and a GM type.
I’m wondering if Wayne Krivsky could find his way back to the organization. He was hired in November 2008 as a special assistant to Andy MacPhail, with responsibilities including scouting, contracts and other baseball administration duties, but seemed to be underutilized. He left a year later to take a similar position with the Mets.
Krivsky served as Reds general manager for two seasons and has been a special assistant and scout with numerous teams, including the Twins before his firing in August 2017 as part of a massive shakeup. It was his second tour with the Twins.
Krivsky is highly respected in the industry, and his wealth of knowledge and experience in a variety of roles would make him a valuable asset during the rebuild. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if his name surfaces later.