Richard Bleier pitches at Metro Bank Park, home field of the Harrisburg Senators (Mick Reinhard/Special to PennLive)

By Scott Barancik, editor

Richard Bleier pitched 7 shutout innings Wednesday for the Harrisburg Senators (AA), giving up just four hits and not a single walk in a 13-0 win.

So what else is new? In 103 Double-A innings this year, the 28-year-old Washington Nationals prospect has walked only nine batters, or 2.2% of those he has faced — the best walk percentage among ‘qualified’ pitchers in all three Double-A leagues, according to FanGraphs. His 2.45 ERA is fifth-best in the Eastern League, and he’s given up just one earned run in his last 44 innings at Harrisburg’s home field, Metro Bank Park. Earlier this season Bleier pitched 15 innings in Triple-A, where he yielded but one free pass.

No wonder the 2012 Team Israel member from Florida is earning rave reviews from publications like the Naples Daily News and Washington Post. The timing of Bleier’s rise is something of a surprise. Selected by the Texas Rangers in the 6th round of the 2008 draft, the lanky Florida Gulf Coast alum began as a starter but was demoted to the reliever ranks in mid-2011. He had a brief stint with the franchise’s Triple-A team in 2013, spent 2014 in Toronto’s farm system after being picked up in the Rule 5 draft, and was signed by the Nationals in the offseason. Credit the Nats with recognizing that the 6’3″, 195-pound southpaw belonged outside the bullpen.

The Post’s Chelsea Janes says Bleier’s accuracy forces batters to make contact. “He gets two ground ball outs for every out he gets in the air, which helps him compile ‘stress-free innings’ completed on a handful of pitches — sometimes fewer than he threw in warm-ups,” she writes. “The result is extended effectiveness. Without lighting up radar guns or fitting on top-prospect lists, Bleier earned Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors in late May.”

Bleier is aware that his age makes him something of a long shot to reach the Majors. “Being 28 in Double A never really helps. There’s no trajectory,” he told the Post. “When there’s four starters on the 40-man in Triple A, it’s kind of tough for me to get called up. I just do what I can, and hopefully it will eventually work out. Maybe not this year, maybe next year. Who knows.”

One thing is certain, though. Whoever faces him, Richard Bleier is no walk in the park.

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