Young Cavs Leaning on Kline to Anchor Rotation; Ex-Closer Making Jump to Starting Role
Byline: Olivia Phelps, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
With 18 saves in 32 appearances and a 1.88 ERA, Virginia's Branden Kline was one of the best closers in the country in 2011.
As an experienced pitcher on a young squad looking to refashion its pitching staff, the versatile right-hander this year is trading saves for starts.
The Cavaliers looked to rebuild their rotation after losing four key pitchers who combined to throw 70 percent of their total innings last year. All-Americans Danny Hultzen (12-3, 1.37 ERA, 165 strikeouts) and Will Roberts (11-2, 1.79) were taken in the first round of the MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners and in the fifth round by the Cleveland Indians, respectively. In addition, seniors Tyler Wilson (10-0, 2.24) and Cody Winiarski (6-4, 2.92) graduated and were drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox.
The departures meant Virginia was without all of its weekend starters and its prime midweek starter. Thus, Kline's move to the rotation.
[Kline] is the most veteran, most experienced, successful pitcher that we have returning from last year's club, coach Brian O'Connor said. This happens to be the year that we have a lot of new players that are not only first-years, but also players that have been in the program but are playing new roles.
With his new role in mind, Kline approached this season - which begins Friday against Boston College in Conway, S.C. - in the same manner he did the previous year. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior played his second summer with the Collegiate USA baseball team before returning to Virginia for weight training.
The only difference between the last two years was probably that I threw a lot more pitches this year than I did last year, Kline said.
Starting games won't be an entirely new experience for Kline. As a freshman, he bounced between a reliever's role and a starter's role that included making two starts in the NCAA tournament. With that experience under his belt, O'Connor thought it best for Kline to anchor the Cavalier pitching staff.
Last year, I was simply going in for one inning, or a little longer than that, Kline said. …