Early this season, it looked like Orioles minor league pitcher Dan Klein might be at Triple-A or possibly even with the Orioles by now. But instead, he is spending these days in Sarasota, Fla., rehabbing a small SLAP tear in his right labrum.
The doctors say surgery is not necessary and Klein, who last pitched in a game June 1 for Double-A Bowie, is in his fourth week in Sarasota, but has not yet been cleared to begin a throwing program.
"I am still kind of in the rehab and strengthening mode," Klein said by phone yesterday. "It's gotten a lot better since I got shut down. I haven't picked up a ball yet. I feel like I could throw, but they are taking it pretty slow with me, obviously. It's going to be a little bit of a process, but I am doing what I can to get healthy right now.
"It is not like I am going to have to get cut on (surgery) or anything. Many pitchers have what I have and most can throw with it. It is just how you respond to rehab. Most guys respond well to the treatment.
"They said it wasn't the worst thing that can happen, so I was encouraged by that. I still have some work to do, but I am feeling a lot better."
Klein began this year with Single-A Frederick and by early May had moved to Bowie. Between the two teams he is 3-1 with a 1.11 ERA and over 32 1/3 innings, gave up just 23 hits and a .197 average against. He has six walks to 37 strikeouts.
Klein said no timetable has been set for him to begin a throwing program, which he assumes would take a few weeks before he might get cleared to pitch in a game. He feels there is a good chance he will get in a few games before the season ends.
"We haven't really discussed that. We'll see how things move along. If I am feeling good at the end of the year, I'd like to throw in a few games and finish the year out on a good note," the soon-to-be 23-year-old right-hander said.
"I am not antsy, I just want to get this right. I don't want to rush anything, I know where they are coming from. I don't want to get shutdown again."
Klein, the Orioles' third-round draft pick last year, had an arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder and took a redshirt year at UCLA in 2009, but said this injury is different.
There has been some discussion that he could eventually be a starting pitcher for the Orioles, although the plan was for him to only pitch in relief this year and total about 100 innings. Now, he admits, any discussion of his moving into a starter's role is uncertain.
"You know what? I haven't talked to anyone about that, but it might (change plans now)," he said. "I am not the one to make that call, but to be honest it might. That is something we will have to talk about to see what they (the Orioles) want me to do."
For now, Klein is taking it day by day, reporting each morning to the Twin Lakes complex for treatment and rehab. He sure sounded upbeat during our interview and is aware that many major league pitchers have gone through labrum issues and returned to successfully pitch.
"That is encouraging and I know Jason Berken had a similar injury and rehabbed it. Dr. Yocum told me (Joe) Saunders from the Angels pitched with a torn labrum for five years. A lot of guys just deal with it, it can be done and that is encouraging for me to look at that," Klein said.
On another note: Matt Hobgood and Ryan Berry made their second appearances for short-season Single-A Aberdeen in last night's game at Brooklyn. Hobgood got the start and allowed seven hits and two runs over four innings. Reports say his fastball was mostly in the 90-91 mph range and topped out at 93 mph. He is now 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two Aberdeen starts.
Berry gave up seven hits and eight runs (seven earned) in 1 1/3 innings. Brooklyn banged out 20 hits in a 13-0 win over the IronBirds.