Bleier: “I still think I provide value to the team”

Orioles reliever Richard Bleier knows one thing about his status on the club entering an arbitration year.

He’s eligible for arbitration.

That’s it.

Bleier-Deals-White-sidebar.jpgBleier isn’t certain that he’ll be tendered a contract by the Dec. 2 deadline. He can’t say that he’s definitely in the bullpen in 2020 and only waiting now to learn about his salary.

MLBTradeRumors.com projects Bleier at $1.1 million after he made $572,500 in the worst season of his major league career. A rebuilding team shedding payroll could flinch.

“Obviously, I didn’t do myself any favors this season,” Bleier said last night on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.

“I had a down year and I just hope my workload speaks for itself over the past few years. But I just think I’d love to stay with the Orioles, obviously. I’d love to be back. I enjoy Baltimore and the fans. But it’s a business decision and it’s up to them, whatever they want to do.

“I still think I provide value to the team, but I guess we’ll see. I don’t know. You guys know anything?”

Sorry, no. But I’m anticipating that he’s given a contract as one of the few relievers that manager Brandon Hyde seemed comfortable using.

Bleier recovered from lat surgery and broke camp with the team, but was forced onto the injured list in April with shoulder tendinitis. He had posted a 14.54 ERA and 2.077 WHIP in only four appearances, with opponents scoring in three of them.

The injury cost Bleier more than a month, and he allowed one or more earned runs in three of his first four outings upon his return and an unearned run in the fifth. He finished with a 5.37 ERA in 55 1/3 innings after keeping it below 2.00 in each of his first three seasons.

The 1.319 WHIP also was a career high and he surrendered six home runs, compared to none over 32 2/3 innings the previous season and none in 23 innings as a rookie with the Yankees in 2016.

“I thought I was fine in the spring and I wasn’t,” he said. “And then I went on the IL and I came back and I was OK, but it was really hit or miss. In the second half I felt like I did a little bit better, I kind of got back to normal, and especially toward the end of the year.

“Looking back, I was like, ‘This is different than how I felt earlier in the year.’ It’s not even the hits and the runs. The swings they were taking from the first half to the second half, the same hitters, just kind of shows ... Obviously, you guys know that I’m a contact pitcher, and before going on the IL I threw, like, five innings and I had one groundout. I was like, ‘Something’s not right here. I thought I was fine and it’s not there yet.’

“I don’t think there’s anything you can do. I think it’s just time. I did everything I was supposed to do and then some. I was working out and throwing and doing everything trying to get back for spring training and I knew it would come around. It’s just a matter of when.”

Bleier registered a 7.27 ERA and 1.500 WHIP in 26 innings in the first half and a 3.68 ERA and 1.159 WHIP in 29 1/3 innings after the break. He allowed five runs in 15 1/3 innings in September.

“The ground ball rate itself was much higher in the second half than the first half,” he said. “I felt like I could return to my previous form. Now it’s just a matter of doing it again.

“In spring training I pitched well but I would throw in the outfield for 20 minutes at 50 to 70 feet, just trying to get my shoulder loose. Before surgery I could walk out of the clubhouse and throw three balls and be ready to pitch in the game. So there was a difference in what I had to do just to prepare for a game.

“You can’t pitch in the big leagues successfully when you’re less than 100 percent. At least I can’t.”

Health won’t hold back Bleier next spring. He’s just waiting to find out if he’s going to be in Sarasota.

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