After rough start here, O's Kline needs some relief for comments

April 14, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

NEW ORIOLES reliever Steve Kline is having second thoughts about his decision to come to Baltimore, so I guess we have something in common.

I'm having second thoughts about him coming to Baltimore, too.

The guy already is making me nostalgic for Mike DeJean, another National League transplant who could turn a promising evening into a talk show whine-a-thon, but at least he didn't pop up in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a week into the season telling everyone that the Gateway Arch is a way better civic monument than the Bromo-Seltzer tower.

DeJean also was signed away from the Cardinals, in case you forgot, and if he hadn't made the seamless transition from capable NL middleman to 0-5 Orioles setup guy last season, the club very possibly would have finished above .500 for the first time in seven years.

Now, Kline arrives with terrific NL credentials and quickly contributes to a pair of very tough defeats, then hints that he's being mishandled on a team that very possibly would have entered last night's game with a 6-1 record if he had stayed in St. Louis.

OK, so he didn't explicitly diss Baltimore and he apologized for his comments yesterday, but it's tough to take some of this stuff back - like the part where he says that if he had it to do over again, he wouldn't have come here.

Or the part where he spoke glowingly of the defensive protection he got from Gold Glovers Edgar Renteria and Jim Edmonds, which sounded a lot like a shot at the two Orioles fielders - Miguel Tejada and B.J. Surhoff - who let that popup fall in during Saturday's game at Yankee Stadium.

That kind of thing is not believed to be good for clubhouse chemistry, but Kline is a guy who says exactly what is on his mind at any given moment. He has a reputation for wearing his heart on his sleeve, though that may not be such a good idea with all the line drives that have been whizzing past him.

He's also known as a pretty decent fellow, and you can't blame him for being frustrated. He has given up six earned runs in his first four appearances. Four more and he'll equal his total for last year. Maybe we ought to let him catch his breath.

I was over at the Ravens' training complex yesterday for the team's annual pre-draft luncheon and news conference, so I ran the Kline situation by coach Brian Billick, who had to put out a few brush fires in his own locker room last season.

"When something like that comes up, I like to bring the player in and ask one question," Billick said. "What are you trying to accomplish here? If your purpose is to get out of town and you feel that strongly about it, come in and talk to me, and maybe that's something we can work out for you."

But Billick acknowledged that most situations like this are the product of short-term frustration, so the trick is to make sure it doesn't escalate into a long-term problem.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome agrees.

"When a player is frustrated, I think you have to bring in that player and talk out those frustrations," he said. "They've invested in the guy. They've brought the guy in for a reason. This season hasn't started out the way he wanted, but that's part of the game."

Newsome was very forthcoming, but that was because I didn't ask him about any football players. He doesn't like to get very specific this time of year, as evidenced by his answer to a question about rumored trade talks with the Philadelphia Eagles about Corey Simon.

"I can confirm that we had some discussions with Philadelphia about a player," Newsome said. "It's been two weeks since the last time we had any discussions about that player. Whether that player becomes a Raven or not does not affect what we are going to do in the draft."

Since I'm relatively new to the NFL draft process, I made the mistake of asking Ozzie who he thinks is "The Man" in this year's draft. I figured that it would be OK to ask, since the Ravens pick 22nd and - barring a trade - have absolutely zero chance of drafting any of the top three or four players.

"I can't tell you that," he said, "because that would tell other clubs what we're thinking."

Normally, I would make some kind of sarcastic remark here, but Newsome's track record in the draft has been so good that it's hard to argue with his methods. He'd probably find a way to draft Utah quarterback Alex Smith just to spite me.

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