Branden Kline Is Healthy But Not Satisfied
The celebration for Orioles minor league righthander Branden Kline lasted only one day.
Kline was thrilled to be placed on Baltimore's 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft, preventing him from becoming a minor league free agent, but he has a much bigger dream. And attending his first major league spring training nudges him closer to it.
"When I got the call saying I was being protected, I was thrilled, but at the same time in my mind it's only a small stepping stone," Kline said. "Guys don't dream as kids saying, 'My goal is to get on the 40-man.' No, it's to be in the big leagues. It's a great opportunity, but at the same time the goal has not been reached.
"I got to tell my wife, I got to call my parents back home. I thought my mom was going to have a heart attack. I had that moment there, but after that 24 hours, the next day, Monday morning, I was up at 6:30 going to the gym and throwing and getting ready for the season. So I've got some goals that haven't been reached yet, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming season."
An entire organization is uplifted by Kline’s stretch of good health following a fractured fibula in 2013, Tommy John surgery in 2015 and two follow-up arthroscopic procedures. He missed almost three full seasons before returning to the mound last summer.
He dominated on it, posting a 1.31 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 20.2 innings with high Class A Frederick and a 1.80 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 45 innings with Double-A Bowie. The 2012 second-round pick out of the University of Virginia averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings, walked only 18 batters and surrendered three home runs in 2018.
"I haven't had any issues since," Kline said. "I'll say, whenever you know surgeons by their first name, it's usually not a good thing."
The fractured leg happened while Kline was performing agility drills in the outfield at low Class A Delmarva.
“I was sidelined about two months with that," he said. "Mentally, everybody was saying to me, 'Hey, it's a bone, it will heal. At least it's not your arm.' And I was like, 'That's actually making a lot of good sense.' So I just kind put my head down and just kept working, thinking that was going to be the only injury bug that I had."
The injury bug bit him a few more times, but now it’s Kline's turn to inflict pain. And perhaps earn a spot in the bullpen of a rebuilding club.
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The Orioles promoted Bowie manager Gary Kendall to Triple-A Norfolk, where he’s replacing Ron Johnson. Kendall managed the Baysox for eight seasons and guided them to a franchise-record 570 wins and their only Eastern League championship in 2015.
Buck Britton, older brother of former Orioles closer Zach Britton, is replacing Kendall as Bowie manager. Britton was a first-time manager last summer at Delmarva after serving as hitting coach for one season.