CLEVELAND --- Phil Klein was called into Steve Buechele's office and was delivered the news: He would have to find his way into two tickets for his parents. The 25-year-old Klein paused out of confusion, wondering if his parents would be surprising him for the Round Rock Express’ game against Oklahoma City, only to find out that they would only be driving a few miles up Interstate-71 to potentially watch their son debut against the Cleveland Indians at the major league level.
“It was pretty surreal,” said Klein. “I let it sink in from there. Being close to home, we’ll have a lot of family and friends come out, which is pretty nice.”
Klein, who grew up just outside of Columbus, Ohio and attended Youngstown State just east of Cleveland, was called up Friday afternoon in what is the first of likely several promotions over the final two months of the 2014 season for the Texas Rangers. Drafted in the 30th round in 2011, the 6-foot-7 towering right-hander is presently in the midst of a dominant stretch where he has thrown 18 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out 28 batters, allowing just seven hits while walking six.
“I try not to pay attention to that, honestly,” Klein said of his current scoreless streak. “I just try to go out there and throw consistently good pitches outing after outing. That stuff adds up in the end, but that’s not the goal. I’m not trying to go out there and have a streak of scoreless innings and whatnot. Consistency over time has just been the product of that.”
On the season, Klein has allowed just three runs in 51 2/3 innings across Double-A and Triple-A. He attributes much of his recent success to some self-diagnosed changes in mechanics. He now toes the middle of the rubber, shunning the allure of visual leverage provided by the third-base side. He has lowered his set out of the stretch in addition to changing the grip on a few pitches, one of which is a cutter that has the look of a slider without the loss in velocity.
“He’s very impressive,” said Rangers reliever Nick Martinez, Klein’s roommate in Class A ball who praised the reliever's athleticism and flexibility despite his size. “He’s always had the talent but just flew under a lot of radars.”
In order to make room for Klein, the Rangers designated LHP Ryan Feierabend for assignment. They have 10 days to trade, release or assign Feierabend to the minor leagues. Klein will work primarily in the middle innings out of Ron Washington’s bullpen, potentially for multiple innings per outing, and could very well make his debut Friday night in the very stadium he traveled to as a child. The goal will be to get Klein, along with other younger players, experience so that the team can gauge what they have in the way of talent, maturity and the ability to adjust at the major league level as they prepare for 2015.
“He hasn’t given up anything in Triple-A and did a good job in Double-A,” said Washington of his newest addition. “He’s moving fast. We’ll see what he has to offer.”