Thursday, April 10, 2008

Phillies Sign Kline to Minor League Deal

The Phillies added another arm today, signing Steve Kline to a minor league contract. The 35 year-old lefty will report to AAA Lehigh Valley in a week, according to the Phillies website.

Like recent acquisition Rudy Seanez, Kline was cut at the end of Spring Training by the team he pitched for last season. Last year, as a member of the San Francisco Giants, Kline pitched 46 innings and recorded a 4.70 ERA.

Since posting a 1.79 ERA in 2004, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Kline's performance has declined. His 4.70 ERA of 2007 was the worst since his rookie year as it appears his age is catching up to him. Nonetheless he would not be asked to do much as a member of the Phillies' bullpen. One would have to assume he'd be used primarily as a left-handed specialist.

There is no guarantee he will be brought up at all, save perhaps as an injury replacement. If he was to supplant any member of the current bullpen, one has to think it would be Clay Condrey and his 9.64 ERA, but such a move would have significant consequences. Condrey is a long reliever and can go multiple innings, whereas it is unlikely that Kline would ever be asked to pitch more than one. In fact, last year he only pitched more than one inning in one game. Of course, with Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson, both former starters, Condrey might not be greatly missed.

The other potential advantage to swapping Condrey for Kline is that it would give the Phillies another left-handed reliever. Having Kline available as a lefty-specialist could mean that J.C. Romero, the team's best set-up man, could be used more liberally. Granted, Romero has pitched almost every game anyway, but perhaps adding Kline would facilitate moving Romero into the 8th inning role.

Of course, this is nothing more than speculation for now. Kline won't even pitch to minor league hitters for at least a week and there's no way to know when (if) he'll actually get the call-up. Still, like the Seanez signing, it can only help.

Also, here's a little-known fact: In 2001, Kline finished 24th in NL MVP voting, just ahead of then-Phillie Scott Rolen. Now he'd be happy just to be the 25th player on the Phillies' roster.

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