Bleier's Double-A debut a success

Left-hander Richard Bleier earned a spot in the Frisco rotation after an impressive Spring Training performance, and he yielded just two runs in 5.2 innings in his Double-A debut on Friday. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the prospect after the game.

In a system with as much pitching depth as the Texas Rangers currently have, it's difficult to earn a starting rotation spot at any level. Coming into Spring Training, lefty Richard Bleier knew he would be competing for a starting spot at Double-A Frisco, but he knew it would be tough.

Bleier came through with a strong effort in camp, yielding just one unearned run in seven total innings. He earned an opening-day spot in Frisco, and manager Steve Buechele pegged the Florida native as the RoughRiders' starter for the second game of the season.

The 22-year-old posted an outstanding Double-A debut on Friday, yielding just two runs on five hits in 5.2 innings of work. He walked zero and struck out three.

Bleier was working on a shutout through five innings, and he fanned the first two batters he faced in the sixth. However, the hurler gave up a double and a homer followed by a walk, and he was lifted from the game.

While he isn't overpowering, Bleier pounds the bottom-half of the strike zone with his upper-80s sinker, leading to lots of early swings and ground balls. He threw just 77 pitches [51 strikes] in the outing and got 11 groundouts versus just two flyouts.

Lone Star Dugout spoke with the pitcher, who is beginning his second full season, after the game.

Jason Cole: To start it off, just give me your thoughts on your first outing at the Double-A level.

Richard Bleier: I was just happy to make it through and be able to compete and give myself the confidence to show that I can pitch at this level and that I can get people out. It's just good to get the first one out of the way and go from there.

Cole: For the first five innings and the first two hitters in the sixth inning, did it feel like you were just out there throwing like last year? It seemed to be the same as most of your starts last year–early swings and lots of ground balls.

Bleier: Yeah, definitely. I feel like, no matter who I'm pitching against, if I can make the pitches, I'm going to be effective most of the time. I was making a lot of good pitches pretty much the whole game, and it was working out. Then I kind of got ahead of myself there and made some mistakes and paid for it.

Cole: Between the Cal League and here in the Texas League, did you make adjustments? Did you attack hitters differently than you did last year, or was it pretty much the same game?

Bleier: I just stuck with what has worked with me for a long time now. It was just pitch away, and then when hitters start to show that they're sitting on fastballs away, I throw pitches in and jam them up. But most of my games, I work down and away–everything down and away. Until that stops working, I'm probably going to stick with that.

Cole: Going back to your Spring Training, how did you feel you threw there?

Bleier: I threw really well. I think I gave up one unearned run in seven innings. I got a lot of work done. I came into camp in really good shape, I thought. With my overall mechanics and everything like that–I felt like I was really on-point with everything.

I threw well in Spring Training in general. I think that's why I broke with Double-A, because all of camp I had everything set up for Bakersfield. I thought for sure that I was going back there. I didn't know until I looked at the roster, and I was on the Double-A roster. It was kind of a shock for me.

Cole: Even going into camp, did you know you were competing for a spot in Frisco?

Bleier: Definitely. I knew I was competing, but I guess I was looking at all the starters and all the people up top. I figured I wasn't even going to have a shot by the time all the people filtered down from the top. I always feel like, in camp when you're kind of on the fringe between teams, it never really works out and you always end up going down. I'm glad that I got this opportunity and hopefully I can take advantage of it.

Cole: The crowd in Frisco tonight was over 10,000. I'm guessing that's more than you have pitched in front of before. What's it like getting to play in an atmosphere like that?

Bleier: It's such a plus just to have fans and people cheering you on. There are people behind you and it's just a really good experience. Everything about the park is amazing. The clubhouse and the people that work there–it's just all really nice.

Cole: Both in Spring Training and in your first start tonight, what has been your primary focus?

Bleier: Just trying to pitch my game–throw strikes. I struggled with my changeup a lot tonight, and that's something I need to work on in-between starts. I wasn't really in the zone with it often. But I just go from start-to-start, just trying to get better between starts.

Cole: Is there anything you feel you can improve upon not just for the next start, but for the season as a whole? Is there anything you really want to nail down?

Bleier: Yeah. I have a tendency to stick with the outside corner. That's probably the strongest part of my game–all my pitches are away. But the hitters get comfortable in the box and they start leaning out and hitting good pitches and driving them.

Last year, I worked a lot with Dave Chavarria throwing inside and inside off the plate, just to try and get control of the outer half again by showing inside. It's something I need to work on and knowing when to throw inside for strikes and inside off the plate to move the hitters' feet. It's just something I would like to get down this year.

Cole: Is there something mechanical that helps you do that, or is it purely the mental part of knowing when to do it?

Bleier: It's just knowing when to do it. I can throw fastballs inside, it's just something that I don't really do. I go sinkers down and away, and that's definitely my out pitch in any situation. I just have to get with the catcher and have him call fastballs in and throw it. I don't like to shake very often–I just usually throw what he calls.

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