FREDERICK, Md. - Featuring a team with 16 returning players and five of the Orioles’ top 30 prospects according to Baseball America, the Single-A Frederick Keys open a new season in the Carolina League on Thursday night at Lynchburg.
The five top 30 players on the Keys are shortstop Adrian Marin (No. 12), pitcher Parker Bridwell (No. 19), pitcher Branden Kline (No. 20), pitcher Mychal Givens (No. 23) and outfielder Glynn Davis (No. 30).
The Keys’ new manager is Luis Pujols. He managed Single-A Delmarva last season as the Shorebirds finished 54-82.
“I think our speed is going to be good,” Pujols said today at Keys media day. “Pitching-wise, I think our bullpen will be strong. We have some pitchers that people know about like Kline, who is from this area, and Bridwell who finished strong last year. I think we’ve put a good club together. Excited to be here
“Our goal is to develop players and win some games. Hopefully we play some good baseball and, in the end, we come out on top.”
Kline, the Orioles’ second round draft pick in 2012 out of the University of Virginia, will be the Keys’ opening night starter. He’ll be followed in the rotation by Bridwell, Matt Taylor, Joe Van Meter and Brady Wager.
Pujols managed Kline last year at Delmarva.
“He’s got a good fastball and I see him a lot more mature than a year ago on the mound. He’s healthy and that’s the big thing,” Pujols said.
The 22-year-old Kline will be playing this year in a ballpark he is very familiar with. He is a Frederick native and attended nearby Thomas Johnson High School. He estimates he’s attended hundreds of Keys games over the years as a kid and says his grandfather, Donald Kline, is a regular at Harry Grove Stadium.
“It’s special,” Kline said about pitching in his hometown. “Excited to get the season under way. It’s awesome to get the ball for game one. I’ve been in the stands all over this ballpark. The one place I’ve never been is out on that mound. That will be special to pitch in front of everyone here at home.”
It looks like the Keys starters will be limited to around five or six innings and around 70 pitches early in the year.
Matt Hobgood will pitch out of the Keys bullpen after going 9-4 with a 4.32 ERA in 93 2/3 innings last year between Delmarva and Frederick.
Hobgood said he has enjoyed pitching out of the bullpen.
“I’ve started my whole life, so there was a transition phase. But I feel like I’ve embraced this pretty well. I want to be that late-inning guy if they give me that opportunity. I like having the pressure and all eyes on me and then having to go out and succeed,” Hobgood said.
The Keys’ home opener is a week from today against Carolina at 7 p.m. at Harry Grove Stadium.
So far, there have been no changes to the Keys’ break-camp roster that we published here Friday:
Pitchers: Jesse Beal, Mark Blackmar, Parker Bridwell, Miguel Chalas, Gene Escat, Mychal Givens, Matt Hobgood, Braden Kline, Matt Price, Lex Rutledge, Matt Taylor, Joe Van Meter, Brady Wager.
Catchers: Steel Russell, Wynston Sawyer.
Infielders: Joel Hutter, Adrian Marin, Tucker Nathans, Jason Esposito, Michael Mosby, Creede Simpson, Sammie Starr.
Outfielders: Michael Burgess, Torsten Boss, Glynn Davis, Trent Mummey, Brenden Webb.
Torre Tyson is the Keys hitting coach, Kennie Steenstra is pitching coach, Shawn Roof is a coach and Pat Wesley is Frederick’s trainer.