Branden Kline Rises To Cusp Of Majors
The Orioles will need to create room on a full 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft, and reliever Branden Kline is expected to be one of the additions to it.
Kline produced a standout season split between high Class A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, where he posted a 1.64 ERA with 17 saves in 65.2 innings. He walked just 18 batters and struck out 71, and Eastern League batters hit .199 against him.
The 27-year-old righthander's story is also about perseverance. Kline had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in October 2015 and overcame multiple setbacks.
The 2012 second-round pick out of Virginia missed almost three full seasons before moving to the bullpen this year and staying healthy. Though old for a prospect, he could make his major league debut in 2019.
"First time he’s been healthy all year," former Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, "and he had an unbelievable year, I thought.
"I got to see a lot of tape of his games. That’s real.”
The Orioles decided not to call up Kline in September after much deliberation. Showalter said it was the right decision based on the righthander’s innings count.
Kline’s fastball crept into the upper 90s and he had two secondary pitches that he could call upon.
"One of the biggest things I need to work on is consistency with offspeed pitches,” Kline said. "Not only throwing them for strikes, but also the shape of the breaking ball and the speed of the changeup. Being able to throw them in fastball counts, where I am behind in the count, is something that is really going to be pivotal for me going forward.”
Kline is a Frederick, Md., native who has a chance to craft another chapter in his feel-good story by pitching for his local team.
"When the Orioles drafted me, I thought being a hometown kid I may get a little notice, but I try to stay humble,” he said. "There are a lot of people who helped me get to this point. But I’ve put in a lot of hard work and want to give a lot of credit to those who helped me in the long run.”
Ryan McKenna Inches Closer To Baltimore
McKenna profiles as a leadoff type who can run and defend center field. The Orioles viewed his upside as too valuable to risk losing in the Rule 5 draft.
• Righthander and 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey, shut down multiple times this summer because of soreness in his forearm and elbow, will begin another throwing program in December. The latest MRI in September revealed only a mild case of tendinitis in his elbow.
• Outfielder Austin Hays was removed from the Glendale roster in the Arizona Fall League following ankle surgery. He’s expected to be ready for spring training. The Orioles replaced him with outfielder Ryan McKenna, who also finished the summer with Bowie.