Bleier on changes, low expectations and missing ex-teammates

Players who remain in recovery mode from a 115-loss season that left marks on them continue to process the changes that have been made and brace for the ones that are coming.

The Orioles chose Mike Elias, who turns 36 next month and hasn’t worked above the assistant level, to replace executive vice president Dan Duquette. He’s allowed to hand-pick the next manager, who won’t bring the same experience and honors as predecessor Buck Showalter.

None of the coaches are under contract and an entirely new staff could report to spring training in February.

The worst season in franchise history is bound to cost people their jobs. That’s just how the business works.

It also can rip apart a roster, with players moved at the non-waiver trade deadline in baseball’s version of a concession speech. Left-hander Richard Bleier, on the disabled list and done for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his lat, barely recognized the bullpen after visiting his teammates.

Richard-Bleier-throw-orange-spring-sidebar.jpg“Even from when I got hurt to the end of the season, when I went back it was like, ‘Man, people probably think I’m like an intern or something. Half of these guys don’t even know who I am. It’s a whole new team,’ ” Bleier said earlier this week before resuming a throwing program that began on Nov. 2.

“In my limited time in the big leagues, I haven’t experienced turnover like that. Dan and Buck brought me in and I have nothing but positive thoughts for them. I reached out to Buck and I thanked him again for all the opportunities. Both of them. So many teams passed me up, and I got a legitimate opportunity with them to show that I can pitch. It’s not like I was looking forward to them leaving or anything like that.

“I like Buck a lot. He always has a lot to offer to a baseball team. I guess ownership thought it was time to move on, and that’s above my pay grade. But hopefully, whoever comes in is just as good as them.

“Obviously, last season didn’t go as well as anybody in the organization would have liked, but I don’t think that’s Dan or Buck’s fault by any means. I just think nothing went right at all.”

Correcting it won’t happen in one year. A car can be slapped into reverse in a split second, but not a baseball team.

A rebuild is going to be a process, and players will report to camp with ears still ringing from all of the negative talk about 2018 and how it’s going to carry over. How contention isn’t a realistic goal.

Bleier pitched for the Yankees in 2016 - winning is demanded and not just expected - and chased the wild card with the Orioles last summer. They made one final run at the postseason in 2018 as the window was slamming shut, and fell on their faces.

How tough will it be for Bleier to arrive at spring training with expectations for the team lower than arctic temperatures?

“I thought we were going to contend last year and we ended up not being that good, so you just never know,” he said. “Look at the Rays. Who thought they were going to contend? As well as they did, they kept trading away guys and they still were in it at the end, so you just never know.

“The 25 guys that make the team are going to be major league players. They’re all going to try to compete and you just never know what could happen. That’s why we play. They can talk about the rebuild and that’s fine. It just means there’s going to be younger guys who, you just never know what you’re going to get out of them. They could not do well or they could do really well and we could compete just fine.

“The Yankees were supposed to rebuild and they rebuilt for like a month, it seemed. You just never know until you play the games and see what happens. I think we’ll be OK. I’m sure they’ll sign some guys and we’ll be fine. And honestly, we did so bad last year that we can only do better, so we’ve got that going for us.”

Which is nice.

Orioles Hall of Famer Rich Dauer, the second baseman on the 1983 team that delivered the last championship to Baltimore, had more time to follow the club after retiring from his job as Astros first base coach. He suffered right along with everyone else.

“I’ve been through a 100-loss season when I was coaching with the Indians, and a 97-loss season, but that was with the Indians. That’s not a storied franchise like the Orioles,” he said.

“The fact that the Orioles would lose 100 games, they don’t go in the same sentence together, and I can’t even imagine how tough it was for Buck and Duquette and them to go to the ballpark every day, because you can’t show a chink in your armor. The players, they see everything and it’s really, really difficult to go through that.”

The Orioles traded closer Zach Britton and setup men Darren O’Day and Brad Brach as part of the summer teardown. Bleier already was missing due to the lat injury. He’s bound to show up at the Ed Smith Stadium complex next spring and instinctively search for his friends.

“I think it is going to be extremely weird,” he said. “Those guys were the anchors of the bullpen - Zach, Darren and Brad. We all went to them for everything, off the field and on the field, and they were so resourceful. They’ve been through so much with everything. In terms of every aspect of baseball, one of them had been through it. You almost take it for granted, and thinking about them not being there ...

“And now if they don’t sign someone, it’s like, me, Mike Wright and (Mychal) Givens will have the most time with the Orioles. It’s kind of like we’re the guys people are going to go to now. It’s definitely going to be different. It’s going to be interesting to see how it goes. And I don’t think it’s going to be bad.

“I think the guys in the bullpen are very capable of doing the job. And the bullpen’s always been a strength and there’s plenty of guys I feel like can still make it a strength. We all need to take the next step forward, as opposed to relying on the guys who used to carry the weight.”

Someone else will have to shoulder the responsibilities of clubhouse leader with Adam Jones now on the free agent market.

“You know Adam, he’s going to be extremely hard to replace. I just don’t think he’s going to be replaceable at all,” Bleier said.

“The guy’s a consistent player, you know exactly what you’re going to get from him. Hitting and fielding and all that stuff. And yeah, he really was the voice of the team. He would always do and say things that other people wanted to do and say but couldn’t. He was never scared to do and say it. And he would always stand up for anybody that needed to be stood up for in any situation, and everybody always appreciated that out of him.

“I just think that it’s going to be different, but that’s the world we live in. Guys move on for one reason or another. Things change. Whether it’s good or bad, I guess we’ll find out, but Adam is definitely the guy that we’ll miss.”

Note: The Mets signed left-hander Ryan O’Rourke to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

The Orioles rehabbed O’Rourke this year following his Tommy John surgery, signing him despite the procedure, and he appeared in 15 games with four affiliates. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016 with the Twins.

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