Ravaged by injuries and now 23.5 games back in the AL West, the Rangers will spend the last two months of the season the way most out of contention teams do: by getting a long look at what their top prospects can do in the majors. They started with a big one yesterday, calling up the 6’6, 270 pound reliever, Phil Klien to the majors.
Klein, 25, had been in the midst of a stretch of pure dominance for Triple-A round rock. He had thrown 18.1 consecutive scoreless innings since being promoted from Double-A Frisco, fanning 28 batters and holding opposing hitters to a .343 OPS. In fact, going back to his days with Frisco, he had thrown 35 straight shutout innings with 44 strikeouts, an opponents’ batting average of 0.98, and a WHIP of 0.571.
A 30th round pick in 2011, Klein had had success in years’ past – 2.41 ERA last season, 1.73 the year before – but never to this degree. In a story by ESPN.com’s Scott Sargent, Klein chalked up his recent surge to some mechanical adjustments. He moved from the third base side of the rubber to the middle, adding deception to his delivery, and lowered his set when pitching out of the stretch. Perhaps more importantly, he switched up the grips on several of his pitches, including his cutter, which now has slider movement and near-fastball velocity.
That break on the cutter and added deception will be important if Klein is to carry his success over to the big league level. According to Fangraphs.com, he averaged 91.7 MPH on his fastball in his debut for the Rangers last night. That’s not bad, but its not the high-90s gas of Craig Kimbrel or most of the other modern high-end relievers. Klien will have to compensate in other facets of pitching to be a dominant force out of the back end.
His first major league was rocky like most. He threw an inning of relief for the Rangers yesterday, allowing one earned run on two hits and a hit batsman as Texas got blown out by Cleveland 12-2.