The move gives the Orioles 39 players on the 40-man roster. They’re now carrying three catchers on the team.
Bleier, 33, was traded to the Marlins late last night for a player to be named later. His production and leadership must be replaced.
“Rich was one of our older players. We don’t have a ton of them,” said manager Brandon Hyde.
“One of the older guys in the clubhouse. Somebody that’s pitched for multiple teams and had a nice run here. Did a nice job the few years he was here. Came back from a tough (lat) injury, performed well later in the year, was off to a good start this year. Yeah, he’s going to be missed.
“He’s a guy in the bullpen with a really inexperienced group that sometimes has had trouble with command, was one guy we could rely on to come in and throw strikes and usually gets ground balls. So he was somebody that I could rely on from that standpoint. And now it’s just up to other guys. And I like the arms that we have down there.
“I think we’re off to a nice start with some of these other guys. I’d like to see that continue, obviously, as well as other guys step up and fill that role of being able to come in and getting outs out of the bullpen and to be able to work ahead in the count, which Richard was able to do. It’s hard to see him go, but it’s an opportunity for somebody else.”
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said the Marlins pursued Bleier in the past, making them a logical trade partner as their roster became decimated.
“We talk to all the clubs on a constant basis as much as we can, and the Marlins had been a team that had expressed interest in Richard Bleier at times, even before the season started and then in the earlier portion of summer camp,” Elias said. “So before their most recent crisis began they had interest in Richard. And with our position right now as a rebuilding team, we’re listening to everything, and particularly with a veteran reliever like that there’s interest from other clubs and times and we explore it.
“He’s somebody who has occupied a very prominent place, I think, in the recent history of this team. He’s been part of some good runs here and he’s been a leader in the bullpen and he’s pitched through injury at times and he’s an Oriole, and so it’s tough seeing him leave, but it’s part of the process and the transition that this club is going through. As we know things like this happen, and we did it last year and it’s happening this year and it doesn’t mean that he’s not appreciated and welcome back at some point in time. But I think we’re going to get something back that we like that is meaningful for our future and what we’re doing.
“And now almost as importantly, it opens up a roster spot both 40-man and on the active roster for some younger guys to get an opportunity, and that’s a big part of this too.”
The PTBNL is a strategy that allows teams to choose a player after the truncated season who isn’t necessarily in the 60-man pool. Otherwise, the choices are narrowed based on 2020 rules.
“Any trade would need to be structured that way,” Elias said. “Obviously, I cannot reveal what we might expect to receive or what our options might be, but at some point in time we’ll consummate the rest of the trade.”
Elias added that he likes the return and the timing is convenient with the Marlins restocking their roster.
The Orioles also will receive a PTBNL in the Hector Velázquez trade with the Astros.
“The way the rules are structured, the players aren’t ours yet, so until that happens there are things that can happen,” Elias said. “But I think that, especially this year with the way that things are working, people are going to have a pretty good idea who that player is eventually going to be.”
Chris Davis was scratched from the lineup with knee soreness, but he could play later tonight. He returned to the team yesterday, struck out twice and drew a walk.
“Should be available off the bench,” Hyde said. “Woke up with a little knee soreness this morning, but he should be available.”
Shortstop José Iglesias’ sore quadriceps muscle is improving, but he remains day-to-day.
The Orioles can be more patient with a player’s return from injury because of the expanded roster.
Hunter Harvey will begin a throwing progression in the next couple of days after an MRI on his right elbow came back clean. But it’s going to be an incremental process to get him back to the majors.
“Almost any time that somebody checks in with an injury we do the requisite imaging so that we have a diagnosis and we know what we’re working with, and I think the results that we got this time were good with him and he is cleared to throw,” Elias said.
“It’s going to be a few weeks just with how long it takes to build back up and get your velocity and face hitters and do everything that we do when we’re ramping somebody up from a no-throw, but I think he’s going to be back.”
While other teams have started to call up their top prospects, the Orioles are sticking to their instructional plan at the alternate site.
“They really are working on stuff,” Elias said. “We have all of our technology there. We’ve got coaches that are using it, and for hitters they’re working on swing stuff, there’s swing decision feedback. And this is kind of a unique opportunity to get some real development work done outside of the pressures of the game environment. Having fans, trying to win that night’s game at Double-A or whatever. And if you’re a pitcher, maybe you’re throwing three or four changeups in a row when you wouldn’t do that in a game. Just all sorts of things that are possible in an instructional league environment.
“We’re utilizing that time, and when any of those guys are ready and when the opportunity lines up here, we’ll make that decision when it comes. But there’s no script or plan or date or anything like that for anybody.”
The 60-man pool is down to 54 players. A few additions are under discussion, but the organization doesn’t want to telegraph its moves based on the uncertainties that exist in 2020.
“We’re getting some things in motion,” Elias said. “Obviously, we’re going to try to get as many of our prospects as we can to that pool. For the guys that we really are prioritizing for player-development reasons versus players that have a clearer shot to make the 2020 roster, we’re trying to balance that as best as we can with the depth needs.”
“I think at some point we’ll get to 60. Right now keeping it at 58 or 59 makes me feel a little better because if we sign a free agent, or maybe there’s a waiver claim or something like that, a sudden transaction, you’re not having to send somebody home. For now I think we’re going to leave a couple or three empty spots in there, at least.”
Next week’s schedule gained focus with news that the Marlins would play four games at Camden Yards from Tuesday-Thursday. A team that’s been shut down due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We’re trusting MLB and I feel really strongly that we’ve followed the protocol so well here,” Hyde said. “I know that MLB is on top of it, and if they feel like they’re comfortable with them playing here, then I’m comfortable as well, just because I know how stringent our protocols are and how they’re keeping the players’ health and safety first for everybody, so they feel like that it’s the right thing to do.
“If they think that it’s safe and healthy for these guys to play and ready, then we’ll be ready.”
Elias also said he wasn’t worried about the Marlins entering the ballpark.
“Anyone who’s here is going to have gone through testing protocols more than the general public does, way more than what the general public does, and our intake and all the extra vetting that’s gone into settling out the Marlins’ situation, so by the time they get in here we’re going to have a total understanding of that.” Elias said.
“On top of that we’ve got our own protocols here that we’re hopeful that if ever someone is in the building that is carrying the virus, that these protocols will prevent a spread if we all adhere to them. This week has been a scare for everyone. I hope that we can all learn from it. We’re ramping up and evolving with our protocols, and this is something that I think the entire baseball work is going to get better at. But certainly the Marlins and the Cardinals news, it’s a little scary and obviously the schedule’s on wheels right now, but this is what it is and we’re working on it and we’re going to try to make it work.”
Hyde learned of the schedule changes earlier in the day and will speak with his players.
“This year we’re adjusting on the fly. It’s dodge and weave,” Hyde said.
“Every day there’s something new. Tomorrow’s probably going to be something else, so I just think that we’re staying flexible. I knew that something was going to have to be on the schedule at some point this next week, so I just didn’t know what was going to happen and when they would be scheduled, but honestly I wake up in the morning, I see what’s happening around the world and around sports and around our sport and put on my fireman’s hat and try to put out fires until 7:35.
“I might go the whole suit.”