Virginia junior Branden Kline is getting a lot of preseason recognition for a guy with only eight career starts on his college resume.
On Monday, Baseball America named Kline to its preseason All-America Third Team. Earlier this off-season, the National College Baseball Writers Association (first team) and Louisville Slugger (second team) also included Kline on its preseason All-America lists.
Kline's eight starts all came during his first season in Charlottesville. Last year, as the closer on the ACC championship team, Kline went 4-1 with a 1.88 ERA, and tied the school record with 18 saves.
Now, with Virginia losing the bulk of its starting staff from last year's College World Series team, Kline is transitioning to full-time starter.
"He's been used to making big pitches at the end of the game," Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor said at the Cavaliers' recent media day. "The kid's got a lot of confidence. He believes in himself. And when you combine that with ability, you've got a chance to be a pretty special pitcher."
Kline was all-state in Maryland as a high school senior in 2009 (he had a 0.51 ERA in 41 innings pitched), and was drafted in Round 9 by the Boston Red Sox before electing to attend Virginia.
Now a full-time starter, O'Connor says the biggest adjustment Kline will need to make is "just being efficient."
"You have to be more efficient in the first three or four innings. You have to have more 12- or 13-pitch innings," he said. "If you're going to stick around for the sixth or seventh inning, you've got to be efficient. And so that's something we're really concentrating on him with."
Kline says he doesn't envision efficiency being an issue.
"Not when you have a pitching coach like [Karl Kuhn], and our head coach Brian O'Connor," he said with a chuckle. "They emphasize getting outs as quickly as possible. Being efficient with your pitches, so you're able to stay in there in the sixth and seventh, instead of being out in the fourth or fifth inning."
Even as a freshman, most of Kline's appearances came out of the bullpen. He went 5-1 in 22 games, with a 3.62 ERA and eight saves. Two of his starts came during the Cavaliers' NCAA Tournament run.
"Coach also helped me out freshman year by giving me a couple of key starts; against Coastal, against Miami. So I have a couple of key starts down underneath my belt," he said. "But every team is different. You have to have the same mentality for every single team, every time you go out there. So it's going to be a fun year."
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