SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles reliever Richard Bleier took another step on the road to full recovery from lat surgery, throwing his first session of live batting practice on the main field at the Ed Smith Stadium complex Friday.
Bleier, 31, rolled out his entire pitch repertoire and reported no problems. He delivered a sub-2.00 ERA for the third straight season last year — the first in that run coming with the New York Yankees — but his season was cut short in June after just 31 appearances.
“I’m very happy with how it went,’’ Bleier said. “Honestly, it was as good as it could have gone. I felt great. I pitched very well. I made all my pitches. It was really good.”
Though it was just one BP session and he probably won’t pitch in an exhibition game for a couple of weeks, Bleier viewed it as an important piece of feedback at this point in his comeback.
“Just the way the bullpen [sessions] have been going,’’ he said. “They’ve been kind of inconsistent. I just wanted to get in the zone and just execute pitches. Obviously, I’m not going to go out there and out-stuff guys. I need to make my pitches and kind of mix and match, which I felt like I did a good job of today.”
Manager Brandon Hyde was impressed.
“Great day for Bleier,’’ he said. “His first live BP was really impressive. Throwing strikes, ball was moving all over the place, all positives there for sure.”
Catcher Austin Wynns saw it close up and shared that opinion.
“He had all his stuff,’’ Wynns said. “He threw everything. He was around the zone and no one got a hit today. He was spotting his pitches. He threw his heater, cutter, slider, change. Talked to him and he's feeling great, too, so that's an improvement in the right direction for him, because we need him big time this year."
Hyde knows the left-hander’s track record, so he knows what a healthy Bleier could mean to the development of a versatile bullpen.
“Very key,’’ Hyde said. “He's got a pretty cool [story]. … His path to the big leagues is a unique one a little bit. He's just worked his rear off to get to where he is, and he's had so much success in the big leagues the last year and a half, two years. I'm really happy for him.
“He's figured something out that obviously is going to be really beneficial to us. Obviously, breaking camp healthy is the No. 1 priority for him. I think today was a great start.”
While Bleier tried to get comfortable back on the mound, he also has to get comfortable with a new role. He’s one of the veteran leaders of the bullpen after just 1½ seasons in the Orioles organization.
“Even last year — the beginning of the year — I was carrying the bag as a rookie, the bullpen bag,” Bleier said. “Now, all of a sudden, I’m the oldest one in the bullpen. So yeah, obviously it’s been different and it’s going to be different moving forward, but I think it’s a great opportunity for me and everyone else and it’s a role I’ll do as well as I can knowing that I’m one of the longest-tenured out there.”
Boog’s BBQ debuts at Ed Smith Stadium
The most popular concession stand at Oriole Park will be represented for the first time at Ed Smith Stadium when the Orioles open the Grapefruit League exhibition season on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.
“It just seemed like a natural thing to do,’’ Powell said during an impromptu tasting party on Friday. “We had been trying to come to spring training actually since the first year I opened in Camden Yards in ‘92. Of course, when they did the remodel down here, Janet Marie Smith and I, we had plans to do it but somewhere along the line they got sidelined.
“We didn’t discuss it too much further than that and we just kept doing what we were doing in Baltimore and put it on hold. Then last year, got to talking to John Angelos, and he said ‘Why don’t we do something in spring training?...So, here we are.
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Boog’s son, J.W. Powell IV, will manage the new Boog’s in the left field pavilion. J.W. also runs the second Boog’s BBQ location in Ocean City.