Kline apologizes to teammates

Pitcher explains himself after negative comments on O's in St. Louis paper

April 14, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Off to one of his worst starts as a major league pitcher, Orioles reliever Steve Kline met with teammates before batting practice yesterday to explain unflattering comments about the organization that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The article, from longtime baseball writer Rick Hummel, gave the appearance that Kline regretted his decision to sign a two-year deal with the Orioles and wished he hadn't left the Cardinals, where he pitched the past four seasons.

In the article, which ran yesterday after a phone interview between Hummel and Kline, the reliever is quoted as saying: "It's not what I thought it would be. Sometimes you miss the old places. But you've got to play the hand you're dealt. I'd like to rub that bottle and have that genie come out and grant me a wish that I could go back."

Summoning reporters on the field after addressing the team, Kline said he intended to compliment the St. Louis organization and its fans, "and it came back really bad in Baltimore."

"It was mostly supposed to be about how the people of St. Louis miss me, and I wanted to say thank you," said Kline, who signed for $5.5 million over two years. "It means something to me because they treated me really well over there and I came here now and I have to cut the ties and kind of move on with my life.

"I accept coming here. I love this place. I love Baltimore. It's two hours from home [Lewisburg, Pa.]. I grew up watching the Orioles as a kid on Home Team Sports. I just need to keep trucking, and hopefully the fans will be behind me and understand you don't always believe what you hear."

Kline said he's frustrated after twice allowing game-turning, three-run homers in four appearances before last night, when his ERA stood at 23.14. He posted a 1.79 ERA last season.

"I apologized to them for what they had to hear and the stuff I said," Kline said. "I told them I tried to play the fence with the St. Louis fans. I was trying to give them a compliment, and it came back really bad in Baltimore. I apologized to my teammates and told them I'm here because I want to be here, and I want to be a big part of this team. And I told them that I'm frustrated because I'm not pitching well, and we should be 6-1.

"I felt bad how I haven't helped this team. I told them I was miserable that way, not that I hate the town or don't want to be here.

"[Hummel] asked me a question about, if [the Cardinals] had offered me the same amount of salary, would I have stayed, and I think that's where I got [it] wrong. It's over now. I was too honest and too truthful sometimes. I'm just frustrated that I'm not pitching well and I'm hurting the team by acting like a little spoiled brat, so I need to get my ... in gear."

Kline met first with manager Lee Mazzilli, who spoke earlier in the day with team executives Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan. Mazzilli let Kline decide how to handle the situation, and they arranged a 5 p.m. meeting in the clubhouse.

Many of the players apparently were unaware of the controversy or learned about it after arriving at Tropicana Field.

"I know Kliner, and he's a good guy and he loves to compete," reliever B.J. Ryan said. "He's just a little frustrated. He said some things and [the reporter] wrote it. It probably made it look worse than it was. But he's a stand-up guy. He stood up in front of his team and took it. You know what he says is coming from his heart and he means it. He's a buddy. I wouldn't even have known if he wouldn't have said anything."

Mazzilli was satisfied with the apology and said the matter is closed.

"He handled it the right way," Mazzilli said. "I think the guys were supportive and had a good time after he spoke about it. There were guys in the background who said we've all been there."

Beattie, who traded for the left-hander while the Montreal Expos' general manager, said the article "didn't sound at all like the Steve Kline I know."

Asked if he also considered the matter closed, Beattie said: "It's still an open matter. Steve has to work through it. It's something we all have to work our way through."

In the article, Kline also referred to "stupid plays" that occurred before the home runs. First baseman Jay Gibbons cut off a throw intended for Brian Roberts, who was covering the bag, before Oakland's Eric Byrnes went deep last Thursday, and B.J. Surhoff and Miguel Tejada failed to catch a fly ball near the left-field line from the New York Yankees' Hideki Matsui before Ruben Sierra crushed the next pitch in Saturday's loss.

"I'm not blaming anybody," he said yesterday. "It was my fault. I gave up the home runs. It's just stupid things I said. I'm too honest. Sometimes I need to lie a little bit.

"I take everything to heart. I go out and play [hard]. This is really my first time that I've ever struggled, pitching-wise. A new team, I'm putting so much on my shoulders, to go out and try so hard, and everything I do right now is backfiring.

"I'm a fun-loving guy in the clubhouse. I have a good time with everybody. Rick Hummel is a very nice man. I said some things I wish I could take back and put in a different context."

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