SARASOTA, Fla. - Eventually, it happens to all pitchers. They give up a big hit that contributes to a loss and have to bounce back in their next outing. Last Thursday in Bradenton, Orioles right-hander Branden Kline allowed a walk-off, solo homer to Cole Tucker on a 2-0 pitch as the Orioles lost to the Pirates 5-4.
It came on the third pitch of his outing. It was over fast.
Kline had to wait three days to get back in a game, but that happened Sunday, when he threw a scoreless inning against Philadelphia at Ed Smith Stadium. It was another chance to show something to the coaches. That he could put one bad pitch behind him.
“One of the big things I learned last year, especially being in the bullpen, is that one, you take off that jersey and you shower, it’s over and behind you,” said the 27-year-old Kline. “If you want to sulk and think about it, leave your jersey on and sit at your locker. I’ve had that mentality ever since then. When the outing is over, I forget about it. In this game you have to bounce back quickly, because we play every day. I learned from it, throw it out the window and get ready for the next outing.”
After missing most of three seasons due to his Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2015, Kline returned to pitch a strong 2018 between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. Between the two teams, Kline went 5-4 with a 1.64 ERA in 44 games. In 32 games for the Baysox, he went 4-4 with a 1.80 ERA and 15 saves in 16 chances, showing a fastball that could touch the high 90s.
Then he looked great, throwing two scoreless outings, to start his spring training. Now he’s made five Orioles appearances, allowing three hits and two runs over 3 2/3 innings.
Kline’s day on the big league roster is very likely coming. It’s just a matter of when. He wants it to be this opening day.
“My main point this offseason was come into camp ready to go and compete for a spot,” he said. “The fact I’m still here gives me a pretty good chance, I think. Saying that, there is still a lot of work to be done. We are still competing for a couple of spots and it’s bringing out the best in everybody.
“It’s been fantastic. Being able to learn from Cash (Andrew Cashner), (Alex) Cobb, (Nate) Karns, especially. Whether it be pitch types or the mental side of the game. Then you throw in Broc (pitching coach Doug Brocail) and there is so much I’ve been able to learn from. I’m appreciative of it. Looking to stay here as long as I can to learn as much as I possibly can to help my game.”
The Orioles drafted Kline out of the University of Virginia in round two of the 2012 draft. He once looked like a promising candidate as a starting pitcher but now is thriving in the bullpen since his surgery.
He has yet to pitch at Triple-A and you wonder if the club would skip him past Norfolk this year or if he goes to the International League at some point soon for more polish and fine tuning.
“Well, the good thing is that’s not my decision to make,” he said. “So my decision and the things I can control is going out there competing. I will leave that up to everyone in the front office. My job is to go out there and get ready for the season and at the same time showcase why I can be on this team when camp breaks. At the end of camp, or if I get sent down beforehand, so be it. Just means I have other things to work on and I’ll be positive either way.”
Several young players have said the coaches have been filling them with confidence during this camp. Kline has experienced that too.
“It is hard to talk with those guys and not feel super confident about your abilities as a player,” he said. “They have done this since day one. They exhort confidence. I know there are many pitchers in this room deserving of a roster spot,” he said.