SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles left-hander Richard Bleier chose not to play in the World Baseball Classic, but might have a decision to make if the surprising Israeli team (2-0) advances past the first round.
Bleier declined the original invitation because he wanted to make the most of his opportunity to compete for a place on a major league roster out of spring training. He was a Yankee at the time, but was acquired by the Orioles and now is vying for a left-handed bullpen role.
“I played in 2013 and they reached out to me to see if I wanted to play this year,” he said. “At the time, career-wise, I’m trying to make an impression and — having a legitimate chance to compete for a place on the team —I thought it would be better to be here than to go. But it seems like they’re having a good time out there.”
He still is eligible to join the pitching staff if Israel continues a surprising run that already includes upset victories over South Korea and Chinese Taipei, but he sounds like he’s leaning against it.
Bleier is a 29-year-old prospect, but he pitched well for the Yankees in his first stint in the majors last year. He appeared in 23 games and posted a 1.96 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. He walked just four batters in 23 innings.
“It’s going pretty well,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys. Obviously, the talent and quality of baseball is there. I’m glad I don’t have to pitch against these guys anymore.”
Pena vs. Pena: Reserve catcher Francisco Pena was in Tuesday's lineup against the Dominican Republic team that is managed by his father — long-time major leaguer Tony Pena.
"It's going to be fun because my dad enjoys having that competition between each other," Pena said before the game. "Being in the last World Baseball Classic with them was a lot of fun, and playing against them is going to be a lot of fun as well."
Pena played well. He caught seven innings, and Orioles pitchers gave up a total of just one hit against a terrific Dominican lineup.
"I had fun, especially controlling the game and the way that I did it," he said. "[Kevin] Gausman came on and threw the ball real well and all the guys who came after from the bullpen did great as well. It was fun. The guys were coming to hit, they were like 'Hey, you've got to throw us fastballs,' and I said 'Hey, when I'm hitting, you guys don't throw me fastballs.'"
Though Pena got a light-hearted earful from his dad throughout his time behind the plate, he said he knows his father was proud of the way he played.
Dickerson update: Orioles outfielder Chris Dickerson said Tuesday that he's working his way back from a foot issue that has kept him out of the Orioles' last two games. The injury occurred on the first day of games and got worse as time went on.
Dickerson said he fouled a ball off his shin in the spring training opener against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland on Feb. 24, and tried to play through it until it got worse this weekend.
"The foul ball from Lakeland, and my shin swelled up, then all the swelling went down into the foot. The swelling in there was causing chaos," Dickerson said. "I just tried to get there early, stretch, do all these different kinds of things to help and it just didn't get any better. It's a little early in spring to start playing with injury, but it is what it is.
Dickerson said he has already taken batting practice and fielded ground balls in the outfield, and is going to try and run fully on the foot Tuesday.
Wynns' debut: Catching prospect Austin Wynns made his 2017 exhibition debut on Monday after being called up to big league camp. He did appear in one game last spring, but obviously was happy to get back out there right away.
"Absolutely, coming off the ankle injury, it was good to just flush," he said. "I'm just happy to be here."
Wynns said he isn't going to change the way he goes about his business now that he got to move into the major league clubhouse.
"Just be the type of person who I am and take input from people like Caleb [Joseph] and Welington [Castillo]," he said "Just working on getting better day by day with catching, because catching is my strength, and then learning a little bit more about hitting every day."
Around the horn: Manager Buck Showalter said both right-hander Chris Tillman (shoulder) and closer Zach Britton (side soreness) will have full bullpen sessions on Wednesday. Tillman's first was Sunday, while Britton hasn't had one yet. … Right-hander Logan Ondrusek is dealing with elbow soreness, and won't make his scheduled appearance Wendesday, Showalter said. Ondrusek allowed a two-run home run on Monday in his most recent appearance, but Showalter said he wasn't sure if it impacted how he pitched.