Orioles' Richard Bleier hopes better plan leads to better results after rocky season debut

Orioles left-hander Richard Bleier had the weekend to assess his rocky return to the regular season after May surgery to repair a torn lat muscle, and believes the issues were more mental than physical as he allowed two runs in the ninth inning Saturday and put the Orioles' first win of the season in jeopardy.

"Saturday, it didn't go well," Bleier said. "Physically, I felt fine. It was nice to get back out there, but obviously the results weren't there by a long shot. I'm glad that Mike Wright picked me up there. We still won the game, but it's nice to just get that first one out of the way, kind of like a spring training outing. And that one didn't go so well, either, hopefully, I can get back on track and be a contributing member of the bullpen.


"Honestly, I think it was just a game where maybe I was a little rusty in my evaluating hitters. My plan of attack was off more so than anything, but like I said, it's nice to be back, and it can only get better. So I've got that going for me, at least."

Orioles left-hander John Means built up his arm strength at a pitching facility this offseason, and honed the changeup that baffled the New York Yankees both there and with new Orioles "changeup guru" Chris Holt.

Bleier, one of the most experienced members of the young Orioles bullpen, was pitching the ninth inning because manager Brandon Hyde summoned top reliever Mychal Givens in the eighth for the first of two times in the series. That left Bleier and Wright to pitch the ninth Saturday, and required Paul Fry for the final out Sunday.

It has taken some adjustment for everyone to be ready in every situation, Bleier said, but he sees a benefit in the early confidence Hyde has shown.

"I think it's just going to be one of those things where you have to figure it out and see where the dust settles," Bleier said. "I'm sure as the season progresses, I doubt it'll be all hands on deck for every situation. But it's nice to see everybody contributing equally, and I think that Hyde's showing a lot of confidence in guys, putting everybody in meaningful games or whatever.

"There's not just an A-squad and a B-squad. But I think that it's nice to see guys [do that], and I think it goes a long way for pitchers, too, that 'Hey, the manager is putting me in this situation where I may not have thought I'd actually get a chance to pitch in. He thinks I can do it, so maybe I can do it.' "

Mullins returns to lineup

Cedric Mullins was back in center field for Monday's series opener against Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Sean Reid-Foley after two days on the bench against left-handed pitching in New York.

Hyde said Sunday that the switch-hitting Mullins, who hits better from the left side, wouldn't be in a strict left-right platoon, and he made sure to let the player know that, too.

If there's anything worth taking away from the Orioles' series win in New York to start the season, it's not how often they'll be able to replicate it, but that they're unburdened from anything but that day's game and can actually enjoy it.

Mullins said that helped ease what could have been a difficult early-season situation.


"It wasn't weird, because I was aware of the situation," Mullins said. "We talked and had communicated with each other that he was going to be moving the lineup around a lot, but I'd get my opportunity to play. I just let him know I was going to be ready, and if I'm not starting, I'd be ready for whatever he needs.”

Hyde said Sunday that Mullins is still working on his right-handed swing, and while it takes game repetitions against left-handed pitching to really solidify that, Mullins sees improvement.

"I've made some strides with my right-handed swing, especially this past year," Mullins said. "I want to say it was the highest I've hit versus lefties, minus my time in the big leagues, so I'll just continue to progress and make the conscious effort to work on it.

Around the horn

Hyde said right-hander Nate Karns, who started the Orioles' bullpen game Saturday, will start again Wednesday in the series finale in Toronto, followed by Alex Cobb for the home opener. ... Renato Núñez, who homered as part of a two-hit day Sunday, served as the designated hitter again Monday. Hyde said the biceps soreness that limited Núñez late in spring training has abated to the point that he's available to play first or third base, if need be.