The 2011 season was Dan Klein’s first full season in the Orioles’ organization. The right-hander got off to a great start and was quickly becoming one of the O’s best pitching prospects.
He began with Single-A Frederick and, after only one month with the Keys, was moved to Double-A Bowie. Klein was pitching very well and appeared to be on a fast track that might have taken him as far Baltimore before the season was done.
But then came the shoulder pain which would derail his season and eventually lead him to Aug. 16 surgery to repair a tear in his right labrum and loosen his shoulder capsule.
“It was a good start to the year. I was able to establish myself and had an opportunity to move up fast,” Klein said by phone last week from Los Angeles. “Gradually, it started to feel a little tight and I didn’t think much of it because I was throwing so well. It got to a point though, where I couldn’t throw anymore. The experience I had was good and I made it to Double-A. I’m just looking to get out there again and keep progressing.”
Between Frederick and Bowie, Klein went 3-1 with an impressive ERA of 1.11. Over 32 1/3 innings, he allowed 23 hits and issued just six walks with 37 strikeouts. Opposing batters hit just .197.
The surgery will make it likely that Klein may not be ready to pitch on opening day next April.
“I was three months out of surgery (last) Tuesday and I’ve progressed really well,” Klein said. “All my range of motion is back and strength is almost back to where it was. It feels really good. I’ll probably start throwing in a month or a little over a month and that’s where I will be able to tell if it feels good enough. But it feels awesome now and I haven’t had any setbacks or anything.
“I feel like I could throw right now, but obviously we’ll be patient with it. This was more of a minor repair.”
The Orioles’ minor league brass has pointed toward June 1 for Klein’s return. He is hopeful of beating that target date.
“I’m going to shoot for before that. I’ll be throwing by January and in spring training I’ll be throwing pens (bullpen sessions). It just depends how the arm is feeling and if I have any setbacks. I am sure the Orioles are going to want to take it slow, but I hope it’s before June first where I am healthy,” the 23-year-old said.
“I exhausted all my options and did all I could to fix it before having surgery. I have no regrets now. The problem is fixed and now it will take hard work and therapy.”
Klein, the Orioles’ third-round pick out of UCLA in 2010, is back on campus this offseason taking three classes to move within a few credits of his degree. He takes part in therapy sessions twice a week at Kerlan-Jobe orthopaedic clinic in the L.A. area.
Klein is confident that whenever he returns next season, he can recapture the form he had last season with the Keys and Baysox.
“Yeah, I am confident I will be able to do that,” he said. “The key will be to take it slow and trust the Orioles’ trainers and what they have to say. I want to finish up strong this year.
“I’m not expecting to (have to) alter anything. I don’t see why I would change anything. I just have to stay on top of my exercises and stretching this year to keep maintenance up for the shoulder.”
After he was drafted, there was some talk that Klein could eventually become a starting pitcher for the Orioles. But coming off an injury and a season of just 32 1/3 innings, any thought of that is likely out of the question, at least in the short term.
“It’s open. It’s all up to them. I don’t know what they are thinking about long term. I don’t see myself starting this year,” Klein said.