SARASOTA, Fla. - One was drafted by the Orioles in 2009 as a shortstop. The other was originally a Texas Ranger, selected in round six of 2008. He found his way to three other teams before the Orioles acquired him from the Yankees before the 2017 season.
Right-hander Mychal Givens, once the Orioles converted him to the mound, made the majors pretty fast. He’s thrown only 159 minor league innings and went from Double-A to the big leagues in 2015. Lefty Richard Bleier pitched in Double-A for parts of six seasons and has thrown 944 career innings on the farm.
But these two Orioles bullpen pitchers have become great friends. They’ve always got each other’s backs, even though you wouldn’t necessarily know it by their endless bickering at each other. It’s all in fun and the relationship not only serves the duo well, it keeps a young Orioles clubhouse loose and relaxed.
Givens and Bleier get at each other like brothers and the rest of the players enjoy the show.
“It is definitely entertaining, to say the least,” said O’s left-hander John Means. “They bicker at each other 24-7, like an old married couple. We call Givens Mrs. Bleier and Bleier Mrs. Givens. So it sure keeps the clubhouse loose. It does help. Keeps it light and friendly in here.”
I asked Givens if a day goes by that he and Bleier don’t go at each other.
“No, there’s not a day,” he said. “If you don’t see us getting on each other, you have to ask some questions. Me and Bleier - it’s been great to be his teammate. Hope it continues and we can help other guys in this clubhouse to have a connection with their teammates and to have fun. We always shoot jokes at each other but he’s almost as much my pitching coach as (Doug) Brocail and (Darren) Holmes.”
Bleier said he and Givens seemed to hit it off from the start and the barbs were flying not long after.
“I think it just kind of gradually started when we were first around each other in ‘17,” Bleier recalled. “It was a pretty serious bullpen, and I can’t help myself but not be serious sometimes. I think Mike took to it a little bit. I can dish some stuff out and I can take some stuff as well.
“I think the back-and-forth kind of encouraged our relationship,” Bleier said, laughing.
He added: “We do give each other a hard time and we mess around a lot. But we also help each other out a lot with baseball, and off-the-field stuff too. We’ve become really close friends, and I think us being comfortable around each other and trying to make everyone else as comfortable as possible, I think, has helped people feel a bit more comfortable. As opposed to being super serious. We’ve shown you can be a little relaxed, but when it’s time to get serious, we do. If you’re locked in for the entire day, you’ll be drained when the eighth inning comes around.”
Said Givens: “His personality and my personality, it just clicks. I think we keep the clubhouse loose. Everybody always sees us arguing, like stepbrothers. His personality is great for the clubhouse. It lets guys know, you don’t have to be uptight. It’s a good connection we have with the clubhouse to keep everyone loose and keep smiles on their faces.”
Givens and Bleier are pretty good teammates and really seem to care about the entire organization. When the Orioles public relations staff pushed Trey Mancini for the All-Star Game with some unique efforts last year, Bleier and Givens quickly wanted to know how they and the rest of the clubhouse could help.
Bleier is happy that his relationship with Givens has the added bonus of helping young pitchers relax.
“I just remember when I came up and I was a rookie. It’s very stressful,” he said. “Being on the mound was the least stressful part of my day. Just trying to do all the right stuff in the clubhouse with all the unwritten rules, it’s a lot. We just try to make people feel as comfortable as possible.”