In a bit of a surprising move to some fans, the Orioles traded left-handed pitcher Richard Bleier to the Miami Marlins after their game against the Tampa Bay Rays July 31 for a player to be named later. General manager Mike Elias broke the news to Bleier, who remains in Baltimore. The South Florida native will join the Marlins when they visit Camden Yards for a four-game series beginning Aug. 4.
The Marlins haven’t played since July 26 due to a coronavirus outbreak. Eighteen Marlins players and three coaches tested positive for the virus.
“[Elias] told me the Marlins and obviously the first things [discussed] were the situations they’re dealing with right now, wondering what exactly is going on and all that,” Bleier said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 3. “But on the other hand, long term, it’s nice to be going home and it’s a good organization and they have a good staff. Short term, there’s some issues, but overall I was happy to be ending up on the Marlins.”
Bleier had pitched in Baltimore since 2017, posting a 2.99 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 177.1 innings with the Orioles. His best season with Baltimore took place in 2018 when he recorded a career-low 1.93 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 32.2 innings, but a lat injury ended his season. In two appearances this season, he’s pitched 3.0 innings with four strikeouts and one hit.
While the 33-year-old didn’t expect a trade, he appreciates what the Orioles provided him and respects the organization’s decision. Baltimore gave him his first significant chance to play in the majors after former executive vice president Dan Duquette acquired him from the New York Yankees in 2017.
“I truly did enjoy my time in Baltimore. The city was great, the organization was great,” Bleier said, “Obviously, I went though some leadership changes, which, previous and current leadership, I felt the same about. I enjoyed my time with everyone there. … I’m thankful for all the opportunities I got in Baltimore and hopefully whoever they get back works out for them.”
Bleier joins a Marlins roster that is currently second in the National League East, though the team has only played three games due to its coronavirus outbreak. Miami has some veteran talent, including first baseman Jesús Aguilar and former Oriole Jonathan Villar in addition to some young talent. Pitcher Sandy Alcantara, 24, struck out seven in 6.2 innings and only allowed one earned run in his lone start this year.
Bleier has not pitched in the playoffs so far in his career, but he believes this year’s Marlins team could give him that opportunity. He’s under team control for two more years beyond 2020.
“With the Marlins, they have a good team. They have a lot of really good players,” Bleier said. “… I think they’re being competitive already so I think there’s a good chance we can be competitive in the NL East. Clearly, the whole point is to win games and to go to the playoff and win in the playoffs. It’s a good situation where they’re set up to be good for a while, so that’s definitely something to look forward to.”
As a native of South Florida, Bleier gets the opportunity to pitch for his hometown team. He said that most of his family hasn’t had the chance to see him pitch in the majors, and even when his teams played in Tampa Bay, it was still a four-hour drive for them.
“I grew up going to Marlins games. I was a Marlins fan all through high school so to go back and play for the team I grew up watching and rooting for is definitely going to be a unique experience,” Bleier said. “There’s no doubt about that I would’ve been cool to play at Pro Player Stadium, but the new stadium is obviously just a little bit of an upgrade.”
Bleier did not make his major-league debut until 2016 with the Yankees when he was 29 years old. He spent parts of nine seasons in the minors with four different organizations before getting his opportunity.
The Orioles have someone with a similar story in Cole Sulser. Like Bleier, he also made his big league debut at the age of 29. Sulser, who pitched in the minors for parts of six seasons, has made four appearances this year for Baltimore and has four strikeouts in 6.0 innings. He also has three saves.
“I always try and find guys that get to the big leagues, kind of a similar unconventional path to the big leagues like that and for him it’s pretty impressive,” Bleier said. “… When you come into an organization as an older guy and not much money invested in you, you better do something special really quick or they’ll just get rid of you. … I definitely root for guys like that.”
For more from Bleier, listen to the full interview here:
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