If you were under the impression, as I was, that O's pitching prospect Dan Klein would be used as a starting pitcher this year, that is not the case.
The decision has been made to use Klein, the O's third-round pick in the draft last June, out of the bullpen this season in the minor leagues.
The biggest factor seems to be the fact that Klein pitched just 58 1/3 innings last year. The O's don't feel he can or should be asked to handle the number of innings needed for a starting pitcher this year.
So Klein will likely get most or all of his innings out of the bullpen, possibly in middle relief. He would likely not exceed 100 innings for the season.
"I think they are going to keep me in the 'pen. It's not permanent and they are leaving the option open for me to start down the road, whether it be later this year or the start of next year," Klein said by phone Wednesday from his home in Orange County, Calif. "I feel real comfortable out of the pen. We just thought as a group this would be the best decision for this year."
Klein went 6-1 with an ERA of 1.90 and 10 saves last season to help UCLA reach the College World Series. He gave up just 39 hits over 52 innings with 11 walks and 55 strikeouts. He ended the year with an ERA of 0.93 in six post-season games.
Then, late in the summer at Short-Season Single-A Aberdeen, he had some dominant outings with the IronBirds. Over five games and 6 1/3 innings, he allowed no runs on just one hit with one walk and 10 strikeouts. Opposing batters went just 1-for-21 against him at Aberdeen.
Klein experienced shoulder soreness during the 2008 college season and underwent an arthroscopic procedure that led to him not pitching and taking a redshirt year in 2009. But he returned with great results last season and said his arm is in great shape now as he gets set to report to the Orioles' minor league camp in a few days.
"My arm is as healthy as can be right now. It's been a real good offseason. My body feels great, my arm feels great," the 22-year-old Klein said.
The right-hander throws four pitches and commands all four well. He has a fastball that reaches the low 90s along with a change-up, slider and knuckle-curve that he learned as a kid.
Some scouts feel the four-pitch assortment lends itself for Klein to be used as a starter. But coming off that redshirt year followed by a season with less than 60 innings led the O's to the decision that he should stay in the 'pen for now.
Klein could start the season with Single-A Delmarva, but as a college drafted player, could potentially move faster through the farm system than some others. There is also the chance that he could reach the majors sooner by pitching out of the bullpen.
Meanwhile, the O's got some injury news recently about minor leaguer Glynn Davis, out of the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville near Baltimore.
Davis has a lower back strain that could keep him on the sidelines when the season begins in April. He reportedly has had some back problems in the past.
Davis was signed by the Orioles last August, after he was not drafted, yet is considered a player with a lot of potential and excellent speed. The right-handed hitter batted .430 for Catonsville with 10 homers and 35 steals and then played last summer for the Youse's Orioles squad.
Davis played shortstop at Catonsville, but was expected to move to the outfield for the O's, who felt they got a player with top 10-round talent after the draft.
Now we have to see how long this back injury hampers the start of Davis' O's minor league career.
Coming soon to this space: More from my interview with Klein.
Hope we see you on Monday: For those of you in or near the Baltimore area, come on out this Monday March 7 for our second Orioles chat with fans and our MASNsports.com staff at Hightopps Backstage Grille in Timonium from 6-7 pm. Then at 7 p.m., we will sit back and watch the first MASN O's telecast of the season as the Orioles take on the Yankees. Hope to see you there.