Orioles left-hander Richard Bleier will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a Grade 3 lat tear, ending a season during which he further established himself as a highly effective reliever.
He said he hopes to be back in time for spring training, but will not know whether that’s likely until after shoulder specialist Dr. Anthony Romeo gets in to repair the damage.
“It’s pretty unfortunate for myself and the team,” Bleier said Saturday. “The next step is, hopefully, a successful surgery.”
Bleier said he felt like he was “shot in the back” after he delivered a pitch to Boston Red Sox infielder Eduardo Núñez on Wednesday afternoon. The pain was so severe, he said, that he didn’t even know Núñez had grounded out to second base.
“It was pretty unpleasant,” he said. “I followed through. I made the pitch I was trying to make. And after the pitch, I felt it and it definitely was uncomfortable to the point where I didn’t even know if the guy got out.”
His 1.93 ERA was the lowest on the team for any pitcher with more than seven innings this season. He also led the team in that department last season with a 1.99 ERA in 57 games.
The thing that endeared him most to manager Buck Showalter was his ability to pitch whenever he was needed. He famously said earlier this year he would pitch every day if he could.
“It’s tough because I would love to pitch every day the rest of the year,” Bleier said. “It’s frustrating for myself and I feel like I let the team down by getting hurt. When we start playing well, I won’t be there for that. I feel like that’s going to be a good time when things turn around here. And not being around for that is definitely frustrating. That aspect is pretty upsetting.”
There is no way to determine why his lat muscle gave out on that particular pitch.
“I haven’t really wondered,” he said. “I just assume that it’s just one pitch to the next. One pitch felt fine and one pitch I wasn’t fine. I assume it’s just one of those things that just happens.
“I’ve got over a 1,000 innings in my arm between the minor leagues and the big leagues. Maybe that’s part of it and maybe it’s not. It could have been anything really.”
Showalter tried to console Bleier on Thursday, telling him that he’s now an established pitcher who will definitely have a job when he’s ready to come back. Including his rookie year with the New York Yankees, he has a string of three straight seasons with sub-2.00 ERAs, so he has a right to take some comfort in that.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been comfortable in the big leagues,” he said. “I don’t think I ever will. I just think I’ll just do as much as I can to come back. There are a lot of people saying, “You know, hopefully you come back better.’ I’ll take the same exact results. I feel like I was pitching pretty well lately and I’d love to just pick up where I left off and I’m sure it’ll all work out.”
Bleier plans to rehabilitate at the Orioles’ extended spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla.
“If I stayed here,” he said, “I’d just be in the way."
Around the horn
Right-hander Andrew Cashner, currently on the disabled list with a lower back strain, is scheduled to have a work day Sunday, and if he comes out of that well, he would likely make his next start Wednesday or Thursday. … Outfielder Colby Rasmus, currently with High-A Frederick, had the best game of his rehab assignment Friday, a two-hit night that included his first home run. Showalter said he is expected to be activated when his rehab window ends next week. “He’s showing everything that he’s healthy and he’s starting to perform,” Showalter said. … After beginning his minor league rehab assignment Friday with Double-A Bowie, third baseman Tim Beckham served as the designated hitter Saturday. The Orioles still believe he will be ready to return when eligible next Saturday. … Showater said he was comfortable using closer Zach Britton for a second straight day if needed Saturday and said Britton will likely be available for closing opportunities next week. Britton wasn’t needed Saturday. … Showalter said right-hander David Hess was available out of the bullpen Saturday. He warmed up, but did not pitch.