Cleveland — Before his lat muscle tore clean apart last June, Orioles left-hander Richard Bleier was the most successful pitch in baseball.
His ERA+, which adjusts a player's ERA to the league-average, was 220 — the highest of any pitcher with at least 100 major league innings in baseball history.
But now that he's back off the injured list following an unsuccessful early-season return, Bleier knows he needs to show that successful form to a front office and coaching staff that has only seen a limited version
"I didn't do well when I was here before," Bleier said. "This isn't my first time in the big leagues, but I definitely would still like to show them first-hand how I've been in the past, with good results and getting outs.
"I wouldn't say urgency, but it's definitely something I would like to do, to prove to them that I'm capable and can contribute," Bleier said.
Earlier this year, when he was still trying to work his way back, Bleier wasn't as effective as he was earlier in his major league career. He never overpowered anyone before, but he located well and missed barrels in a way that wasn't happening in March and April.
Bleier allowed seven runs on nine hits (two home runs) in 4 1/3 innings over four appearances before he went back on the injured list to build up strength in his shoulder.
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He thought he pitched well on his rehab assignment, and with so many left-handers in the Indians' balanced lineup, he and manager Brandon Hyde decided this series would be a good one to return.
"I was getting some good swings and misses on my fastball and getting the results I was looking for on the fastball, and just recovering — I did a back-to-back, Friday Saturday, and I recovered from that and I was able to pitch the second day," Bleier said. "Just overall, before I was throwing so much just trying to get my shoulder loose. Now I'm kind of back to normal where I can just do normal catch, and my regular routine."
"He got here last night," Hyde said. "He was pitching well in the minor leagues, and we felt he was ready, so he joined us today. ... It was mainly about appearances, and getting out there with his stuff. We felt like his stuff is going to play, and we felt like he was ready to come back. It works out well with all the left-handers they have, the switch-hitters and left-handed hitters that they have in their lineup."
Time for a pep talk
During the Orioles' typical pre-series meetings, Hyde said he reiterated to them the message that the improvement he wants to see is still evident amidst the team's constant losing, even if there's plenty to improve.
"We're going to improve as the year goes along, and we're still developing a lot," Hyde said. "We're still developing approach, so many things that winning clubs, that championship-level clubs are able to do. Our guys just haven't had that experience.
"I think the mood in our clubhouse has been the same since day one. I think guys haven't let the losses affect them. I think our preparation has been good, I think we come to win every night. I like how we don't sulk in the clubhouse or we're not feeling sorry for ourselves. I don't get that sense at all. I just get the sense that we need to get better, and we're going to try to win every night."
Around the horn
To make room for Bleier, the Orioles optioned right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis to Triple-A Norfolk. Yacabonis re-joined the team Saturday and pitched that day, allowing a run on three hits in two innings while striking out three.