The Red Sox acquired a record-setting reliever on Monday – even if it's a record he'd rather forget.
Richard Bleier arrived from the Marlins in exchange for recently DFA'd reliever Matt Barnes because he throws strikes, keeps the ball in the park, and provides another left-handed option after last week's trade of Josh Taylor to the Royals.
Fans might remember the 35-year-old from previous stops in the American League East with the Yankees (2016) and Orioles (2017-20), but his claim to fame – or infamy – came last September vs. the Mets when he balked three times in one at-bat to force in a run.
Tomase: Why Brayan Bello is the key to the Red Sox rotation in 2023
Making the story even wilder, he had never balked in over 300 appearances covering seven seasons, and those three remain the only blemishes on his record.
"I've never seen anything like it," Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters after Miami's 6-4 victory. The guy hasn't balked in seven years and all of a sudden he has three on one hitter. It's frustrating, that's for sure. But at the end of the day, we got a win, so I'm not going to worry about it."
The eighth inning started with two quick outs before Jeff McNeil dribbled a single through the right side. Up stepped the dangerous Pete Alonso with the Marlins leading 6-3. And then the fun started.
First base umpire John Tumpane called Bleier for a balk on his first pitch, claiming he did not come set. Bleier yelled in frustration, demonstrated with his glove where he had paused his deliver, and rolled his eyes.
He looked shocked when Trumpane called him for a balk two pitches later, sending McNeil to third. The ump came to the mound to explain, but Bleier wanted no part of it.
"In the beginning, he said I didn't come [to a stop], which I clearly disagreed with," Bleier said, per MLB.com. "It's the same move I've been doing my entire career. I have never been called for a balk ever. The first one, which I don't think was a balk, I watched the video. After that, they were clearly not balks. Words cannot describe what just happened in that inning."
Since balks don't count as pitches, the count technically remained 1-0. Alonso ran it to 3-1 before Trumpane called Bleier's third balk on an outside fastball, this one forcing in a run and leading to Mattingly's ejection. Bleier himself was later ejected between innings.
The whole strange sequence made him the first pitcher in more than 30 years to balk three times in one inning, and the only one since 1900 to balk three times in one at-bat.
If nothing else, he'll have a good story for his new Red Sox teammates.
"Words cannot describe what happened in that inning on my end," Bleier told reporters. "I don't know. It was wild."
For an entertaining breakdown of events, check out Jomboy's recap, with a warning that it includes some bad language.