Showalter open to possibility, but hesitant to disrupt southpaw's success out of 'pen
By Mandy Bell
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles have tried Alec Asher and Jayson Aquino as starters, moved Ubaldo Jimenez in and out of the rotation and have given Dylan Bundy extra rest, but have yet to find a quick fix for the struggling starting rotation. The next option the team may consider is using Richard Bleier as a starter.
Bleier has posted a team-leading 1.38 ERA this season, allowing just five earned runs and two homers in 32 2/3 innings. Of the Orioles' five current starters, Bundy has the best ERA at 4.33, while Kevin Gausman, Jimenez and Chris Tillman all have ERAs over 6.00.
"Some people have been talking about it about [Bleier] starting wise," Orioles' manager Buck Showalter said on Saturday. "You know, it certainly crosses your mind because he can defend himself against right-handed hitters, but I don't know for sure how that would play right now. He's doing such a good job in that role, I hate to mess with it."
Bleier has been quietly providing some of the best relief innings the Orioles could ask for so far this season. In Friday's series opener against the Cubs, Bleier entered in the fourth inning with an 8-1 deficit after Gausman labored through three, but quickly changed the tone of the game, shutting down the Cubs for 2 1/3 innings and allowing just one hit to keep the Orioles in it.
"There was a good vibe in our dugout, even when we were down 8-0, we could scratch a couple across. I think a lot of it has got to do with the tone that Richard set when he came in. Worked quick, threw the ball in play, didn't throw a lot of pitches, got outs, got us back in the dugout," Showalter said. "The ability to throw the ball over the plate and get some contact early in some at-bats and to get off the field, those things are big. You start reaching the summer months, you need to do that to be effective. It helps the club, it really does."
After Bleier tossed over two innings on Friday, Showalter said he does not want to use him on Saturday, but noted that, knowing Bleier's resiliency, the lefty will say he can give the team some innings. Bleier has been able to hold his right-handed opponents to just a .241 batting average and lefties to a .268 average, generating a lot of swings and misses without overpowering velocity
"Well, I've got the answer, but I'm not going to broadcast it. But, you know one is his cutter," Showalter said. "He's deceptive. If you watch his delivery, he's one of the few guys that lands his toes on the ball of his foot and doesn't come off of it. Most people go toe heel. He goes toe, stays on it. That's really unusual. I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher do that, but it works."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.