SARASOTA, FLA. — Left-handed reliever Richard Bleier was the first to acknowledge the results weren’t pretty, but he was pleased with everything else about his first appearance in a game since he suffered a severe lat muscle injury in June.
Bleier retired just two batters and allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits in the Orioles’ 6-1 split-squad loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday night. But it wasn’t really about that when you’ve waited eight months to get back on the mound.
He looked comfortable out there and had decent command, giving up a couple of opposite-field doubles to right-handed hitters and a bad-hop single on the infield. Only one of the runs was earned after a throwing error with no outs allowed the first run of the inning to score from second base.
“I felt great,’’ Bleier said. “That was about as good as I could have been feeling-wise. I felt the ball was coming out of my hand really well. I executed almost all of my pitches, other than the first double. Even the second one, he kind of stuck his bat out.
“My fastball was good. My cutter was good. That’s pretty much all that matters, honestly. The rest of the stuff is just a bonus. I’m extremely happy with it. I know, obviously, the results weren’t quite what I wanted, but I’ll take small victories at this point. You know, it’s been a while.”
If there was a moment of apprehension after what he said was initially a difficult rehabilitation after surgery, Bleier said it only lasted a moment.
“I think after the first pitch, it was like, ‘All right, my arm is still attached to my body, let’s get ready for the season,’ ” he said.
The only reason he came out after retiring just two batters was because manager Brandon Hyde said before the game he would not allow Bleier to throw “much more than 20 pitches.” After he left the mound, Bleier said he is confident he’ll be able to start the season on time.
“I feel ready now,’’ he said. “I executed all my pitches. I think it’s just a matter of refining it, so I’m thinking eightish [innings]. I feel great right now. I’m pretty excited where I’m at.”
Manager Brandon Hyde was pretty stoked, too.
“I think we all were,’’ he said. “Mission accomplished. He came off the mound, feeling healthy. His ball was moving all over the place. The one lefty he faced he had a lot of success I just think, No. 1, he got through it and felt great after. Two, his stuff was really good. Some unfortunate things happened, but the bottom line was that he threw 20ish pitches and threw the ball really well. That’s great.”
Hess solid again
Right-hander David Hess was coming off an appearance against the Minnesota Twins in which he retired all nine batters he faced. He allowed a double on his first pitch of Saturday night’s start and then retired nine straight batters, but left the game after giving up two more hits in the fourth inning.
He was charged with two runs on three hits, but struck out three and did not walk a batter in 3 1/3 innings.
“I think there were good things to take away from it,’’ Hess said. “Anytime you lead off the game with a double like that and hold them to one run, that’s a good way to go about that. I think there are a lot of positives to build on and some things to work on as well.”
Hess was asked if he feels like he’s where he wants to be at this point in spring training.
“Yeah, I feel good,’’ he said. “The ultimate goal is to put yourself in the best position to make the club. So, I’m really just coming in each day and trying to get better and ultimately I am where I want to be right now. There are a lot of talented guys here doing the same. There’s a lot of competition. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve really enjoyed it and looking forward to keep going with it.”
No doubt, the Orioles would like to have put on a better show for the crowd of 7,523 — the second sellout at Ed Smith Stadium this spring — but they apparently used up most of Saturday’s offensive production during their 17-run performance in the first game of the split-squad doubleheader in Port Charlotte.
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It’s probably no coincidence that the two sellouts have come against the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who always pump up crowds for their teams’ road games in the spring.