When He Was a Crawdad: Richard Bleier
It took nine minor league seasons with ten teams spanning four different organizations, plus two winter league stints in the Dominican Republic, but on May 26, 2016, former Hickory Crawdads pitcher Richard Bleier is a major league pitcher.
It comes on the day in which it is announced that 19-year-old pitching phenom Julio Urias will be called up to the Los Angeles Dodgers to make his first major league start.
Baseball is a funny game that way. Some players just have “it” and get the fast track to the big leagues and Urias certainly has that. But when Urias was 12, Bleier seemed to be, while not on a fast track, on at least a commuter line to the Texas Rangers, or someplace where the play baseball in multi-tiered stadiums.
Bleier made only five appearances with Hickory, three of those at home. The Rangers sixth-round pick in 2008 out of Florida Gulf Coast University posted a 2-1 mark with a 1.14 ERA. He allowed just three earned runs with 17 Ks and four walks over 23.2 innings before becoming the first Texas Rangers affiliated player to get a promotion when he was called up to High-A Bakersfield in May 2009.
Bleier topped out at with four seasons at AA Frisco, though he did get a one-month stay at AAA Round Rock at the start of 2013.
After his sixth minor-league season, Bleier became a free agent and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays organization and spent much of the season at AA New Hampshire.
Again a free agent, Bleier signed with the Washington Nationals for 2015 and he split the season at AA Harrisburg and AAA Syracuse. He earned all-star recognition in the Eastern League (AA) after putting up 8-3 mark with a 2.45 ERA over 16 games (15 starts). Bleier continued his good work at AAA, going 8-2 with a 2.75 in 12 outings (11 starts).
He signed with the Yankees system in the offseason and after a DL stint to start the year he was 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA over seven starts.
Bleier is the 145th former Crawdads player to get to the majors, the third to come up in 2016, following Nomar Mazara and Cody Ege. He is the 12th member of the Crawdads 2009 squad to get to the majors.