The Orioles have chosen reliever Branden Kline to be their 26th man in Game 2 of today’s doubleheader, the first of multiple roster moves that are pending. Kline is at the ballpark and will be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk after Game 1.
Alex Cobb will be activated from the injured list and start Game 2, and the Orioles must create a spot for him by optioning a pitcher. They also need to get back down to 25 players following the nightcap, which could mean a brief stay for Kline or involve another pitcher.
“There’s a lot of moving parts today,” said manager Brandon Hyde.
Kline appeared in five games with the Tides and allowed six earned runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Frederick native hasn’t pitched since Tuesday, when he worked 1 2/3 innings, and gives the Orioles a fresh arm.
“Great opportunity for Branden,” Hyde said. “It’s a big deal for him and his family. So happy to shake his hand this morning. We need a 26th man for the second game and Branden’s been throwing the ball well. Threw the ball great in spring training, love his stuff, so great day for him and his whole family.”
How long Kline stays with the club could hinge on bullpen usage in the doubleheader. He isn’t the automatic choice to go back down to the minors.
“I think we’re waiting to see how the day goes,” Hyde said. “We haven’t made any decision on that. That will be an after-the-second-game decision.”
The Orioles made Kline a second-round pick in 2012 out of the University of Virginia and wanted him to become part of their rotation, but a series of injuries led to his conversion to reliever. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and had two follow-up procedures on his elbow, costing him almost three full seasons as a professional.
Kline was brought to tears twice yesterday, first after Tides manager Gary Kendall gave him the news and again after passing it along to his wife Sarah.
“Right away I was really excited and the emotions started to hit me, just thinking about the journey it’s taken to get me here to this point. Then, remembering the team is in Baltimore and I grew up 45 minutes away from here. It’s definitely special,” said Kline, who’s assigned uniform No. 52.
“I had to keep it a secret for about two or three hours. I wanted to tell my wife, who was in Norfolk with me, face-to-face instead of on the phone. So I tried to get her to come to the field early. But the little one (Adalyn) was sleeping. Fortunately, our game got rained out, so I was able to go home a little bit earlier and I was able to break the news to her first. Then I called my mom, called my dad, called her family.
“For the most part, it was about keeping everything hush-hush and getting here as quickly as possible.”
Kline kept thinking about the injuries and surgeries. The doubts that crept into his mind regarding his professional career. And those nights as a kid spent attending Orioles games.
Trying to contain his emotions became a losing battle. He had to surrender to them.
“I cried for a solid thirty minutes after I got the news,” he said. “It was honestly excitement. But at the same time it was about the journey to get here. One injury after another after another. I let my emotions kind of go. As guys were congratulating me, other things would pop up. The fact that I grew up 45 minutes away. The fact that I went to these games as a little kid. And that I’d potentially have the chance to go out there on the same field I watched a lot of guys from the seats.
“A lot of emotions came out over the first 30 minutes. Then when I told my wife, I cried some more. She cried some, too, so I’m a little bit of a softie. Everything is good now. I’m here to help this team in any way I possibly can and we’ll go from there.”
The numbers don’t read well for Kline, who posted a combined 1.64 ERA with 17 saves last summer and averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings between Bowie and Single-A Frederick, but he’s pitched in some tough luck. He feels better than the stats look.
“The ball has been coming out really well,” he said. “Baseball is an interesting sport where things can feel good, come out well, and the results may not be there. Been giving up a lot of groundball base hits for the most part. But everything feels good. Arm feels good. Plenty rested.
“I’ll have some adrenaline, hopefully, when I get out there, and go from there.”
He’ll have lots of support if able to make his major league debut tonight. Family and friends will be filing into Camden Yards tonight.
“I know for sure I’ll have at least 15-20, and that’s the people I know of,” he said. “I don’t know if my mom has been able to keep things hush-hush. I’m sure she’ll be able to gather a good amount of people to come, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Orioles placed Kline on the 40-man roster on Oct. 30 and major league camp confirmed what he needed to know.
“The biggest thing was, my stuff plays,” he said. “It was more of a confidence factor. To be around guys in this locker room, but know I can compete against guys I’ve seen on TV. Knowing I can get them out and I have the capability to go out there and help this team in any way possible. That was the biggest thing for me from spring training.
“Now that I’ve had this nice warm-up, I’m excited to go out there today and see what I can do when the games actually mean something.”
Maybe it happens tonight. Maybe he’s sent down and waits his next turn.
“For right now, all I know is I’m here,” he said. “Try to help the team at some point, whether that’s the second game or whatnot. I’m just taking it moment by moment, not even day by day. Just trying to soak everything in and enjoy being in this clubhouse.”
Meanwhile, veteran Nate Karns remains on the injured list with a forearm strain, but he’s scheduled to pitch one inning today at Norfolk to start his game progression.
“We’re just going to see how he responds,” Hyde said. “He throws an inning today, he’s got an inning a few days from now, then a two-inning stint. We’ll see how he is after that.”
The latest update on outfielder Austin Hays is unchanged. The splint came off his left thumb on Monday and he’s starting a hitting progression this weekend.
“Everything’s good on that end, too,” Hyde said. “When you have a hand thing, you start with dry swings to tee to soft toss to coaches BP. And then there’s always evaluating and you go into extended spring training games and we make decisions from there.”
Pitcher Alex Wells left extended spring training and is starting today with Double-A Bowie.
Former Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is batting seventh today for the Twins. He stated again, as he did in spring training, that the Orioles didn’t reach out to him during his free agency.
For the Twins
Jorge Polanco SS
Marwin Gonzalez 3B
Nelson Cruz DH
Eddie Rosario LF
Willians Astudillo 1B
Jake Cave RF
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Jason Castro C
Byron Buxton CF
José Berríos RHP