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Several factors go into Orioles summoning Verrett and Bleier from minors for added bullpen depth

NEW YORK — The Orioles reached into their stash of optionable relievers to summon multiple pitchers from Triple-A Norfolk on the same day for the first time this season, recalling left-hander Richard Bleier and right-hander Logan Verrett before Sunday's game.

The team optioned left-handers Vidal Nuno and Jayson Aquino after Saturday's 12-4 loss to the New York Yankees, starting on Sunday their 10-day clock of mandatory service time in the minors before being eligible to return.

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Showalter said Bleier, Verrett and right-hander Alec Asher would be available out of the bullpen Sunday but indicated Asher would be the least likely to be used because he's the most likely candidate to fill the open starter spot for Tuesday night in Boston.

Bleier has a 1.00 ERA over nine relief innings at Norfolk. He just returned from the minor league disabled list Wednesday (right hamstring strain) and pitched on back-to-back days Thursday and Friday, allowing no hits and striking out three over 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

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Verrett had a rocky start at Norfolk, compiling a 12.71 ERA over his first three appearances spanning 5 2/3 innings, but he's recovered nicely, with a 1.35 ERA over his past four outings spanning 6 2/3 innings.

"I just caught a few breaks here and there," Verrett said. 'It's always a grind, but early on it just seemed like there wasn't anything going our way as a team down there in Norfolk. The whole team's really turned it around and started to get that ball rolling in the right direction."

Verrett's first regular-season stint with the Orioles is a long time coming. He was a Rule 5 pick of the team in 2015 and spent spring training with the club before it couldn't keep him. The Orioles reacquired him in a trade with the Mets after the 2016 season, and he spent his second spring with the club before being optioned to Triple-A to open this season.

Both players are familiar with New York. The Orioles selected Verrett from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft, and he made 49 appearances with the Mets over 2015 and 2016. Bleier was a longtime Yankees farmhand before getting his first taste of the majors last season, compiling a 1.96 ERA in 23 big league appearances with New York before being traded to the Orioles in February.

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"It's nice to be here," Verrett said. "It's somewhat ironic, I guess, that it's New York, a familiar city. But nonetheless, I'm glad to be here."

Both pitchers paid attention to the Orioles' shuffling their pitching staff and thought a call-up could come sooner or later.

"You see guys going up and down quite often in Norfolk," Bleier said. "You see that aspect of it. You can't ignore it there because guys are there and then they're not. You see that there's been quite a bit of movement so far and the season's just started. I'm just trying to pitch and get people out regardless of where I am."

Showalter said both call-ups were deserved but that there were other factors at play, including days off and that the club wanted to keep certain pitchers in the minors so they could build on recent success.

He said he wanted to keep left-hander Chris Lee and right-hander Gabriel Ynoa at Norfolk while leaving right-handed reliever Jesus Liranzo at Double-A Bowie.

"The need of the major league club will always [be first], but if there's a tiebreaker, it will be what's best for their development as well," Showalter said. "Sometimes coming up here is what's best for their development."

Lee and Ynoa are coming off quality starts in their most recent outings, and Liranzo has allowed just one earned run over his past three relief appearances spanning five innings.

Jackson getting close

Showalter said right-hander Edwin Jackson, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles on April 5, is getting close to joining a minor league affiliate after beginning his season at extended spring training.

"He's pitching well," Showalter said. "I think he will present himself as an option [soon]. … We're trying to let those guys try and establish some things before we go get them, but we're going to take the best as [we have] options. The roster doesn't figure too much into it. We're always going to have room."

Jackson would likely join a crowded staff at Norfolk, but it's still unclear whether he would be used as a starter or reliever.

"I know what I think, but we'll see where they are with starters and everything when he's ready to go," Showalter said. "He's close. They actually had to take him to the bullpen yesterday because he's wasn't  getting as challenged as much as he probably [is] used to at that level."

Around the horn

Right-handed pitcher Chris Tillman was scheduled to leave the team after Sunday's game to fly to Charlotte, N.C., where he will make his fourth minor league rehabilitation start for Norfolk on Tuesday night. … Closer Zach Britton is scheduled to pitch an inning Sunday afternoon at Bowie  and could be an option to return from the DL for Tuesday's game.

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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