For former Oriole Kline, new team is a big relief

NL notebook


The body and uniform have changed.

The wit and irreverence haven't.

San Francisco reliever Steve Kline walked past reporters standing in front of Giants slugger Barry Bonds' locker recently and said, "You here for what's his name?"

Kline then smiled, something he didn't do much last season while with the Orioles.

"It was just a bad year," said Kline, who was 2-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 2005, his worst mark since his 1997 rookie season. "Every aspect of life was just bad."

It started in mid-April, when Kline told a St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer that he was "miserable" in Baltimore and wished a genie would send him back to St. Louis. Orioles fans didn't take kindly to the remarks - or his expanding waistline and 20-plus ERA - and reminded him of their displeasure whenever he entered a game.

What made matters worse was that Kline had little respect for then-Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, whom Kline felt did not use his bullpen properly and didn't forge relationships with his players.

Last week, though, the lefty took the high road when asked about his difficulties in Charm City.

"You pitch for your manager and the town and I was up against the wall on both of them," Kline said. "I screwed up when I ran my mouth about the town and got myself in trouble with Mazzilli because I wasn't getting people out. It was me that was probably the problem."

He also was in the worst shape of his career. Kline ended last season at 253 pounds. He returned home to Lewisburg, Pa., and worked out with and coached his high school's wrestling team. He entered spring training weighing 210 pounds. And he went to camp with a new team - after the Orioles traded him in December for LaTroy Hawkins.

"I felt like I got a whole world off my back," Kline said of the trade.

It's working out for the Giants, too. Kline had a 3.09 ERA heading into Friday night and has been scored on in only two of his first 15 appearances. The success has made it easier for him to forget his 2005 nightmare.

"It was like a bad movie," Kline said. "It was one of those movies that you cry at the end. You're thinking there is going to be a happy ending and it doesn't end up happening."

More WBC complaints

St. Louis reliever Ricardo Rincon, who signed a two-year, $2.9 million contract with the Cardinals in December, had season-ending surgery on his shoulder and elbow Thursday. Rincon pitched in just five regular-season games before complaining about arm pain.

Manager Tony La Russa believes Rincon's participation in the World Baseball Classic - Rincon pitched 2 2/3 innings in four games for Mexico after reporting late to Cardinals' camp due to visa problems - is to blame.

"I think that's a consequence of pitching competitively before you are ready," La Russa said. "I have no agenda, I just look at it. When you can't do the work in between your appearances ... you start showing weakness. What other conclusion can you draw?"

Quick hit

The Washington Nationals want Jon Rauch to continue building his confidence in middle relief this year before becoming a starter next season, even though the team could use rotation help now.

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