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Schmuck: Orioles reliever Branden Kline picked the right time to throw the wrong pitch

SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles reliever Branden Kline had to make that long walk back to the dugout on Thursday. The one no pitcher every wants to take.

He allowed a walk-off home run to Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker in the bottom of the ninth after starting the inning and throwing just three pitches.

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“I think it’s the first time I've ever gone into a game and only thrown three pitches,’’ he said, “but at the same time, you’ve got to give credit to Tucker. It was a 2-0 count, a fastball’s coming in and he definitely didn’t miss it.”

The good news: It doesn’t really count.

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“It still is a long walk back to the clubhouse, especially after that,” Kline said on Friday morning, “but it’s a good thing that it doesn’t count right now and I’ll use that as fuel to get better and take it into the season.”

It’s every reliever’s nightmare, so Kline wasn’t making light of it. In his two previous exhibition appearances, he pitched a total of two innings and struck out five batters. This time, a guy not known for his power stroke guessed right and turned around Kline’s mid-to-upper-90s fastball. There was never any doubt.

“I think any athlete will tell you, any time that they lose, it’s not fun,’’ Kline said. “Whether it’s a scrimmage or a practice or an actual game, it’s all the same. So, mentally, you never want to give up a home run. You never want to be put in that situation. The fortunate thing is, even though it doesn’t count, at the end of the day, you kind of analyze what you want to do differently and what you want to improve on.”

Manager Brandon Hyde lumped it in with the four home runs that were surrendered in Thursday’s game by starter candidate Yefry Ramirez, including an earlier homer by Tucker. It was all about the pitch count.

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“Especially at this level,’’ Kline said. “When you get to 2-0, guys can start sitting on one pitch and one location. If they guess correctly and if I throw it where they’re looking for it, they definitely don’t miss it.

“So, definitely don’t want to come in and have the first two balls be balls. Got to do a better job of attacking the zone and at the same time, if I find myself in that situation again, just kind of learn from it, go to a different spot, use a different pitch, something along those lines. That’s all I can do from that.”

Kline called it a teaching moment, but it’s not something he didn’t already know, so it was more a reminder.

“This wasn’t the first time,’’ Kline said. “It’s happened in the past, but the good thing is, it’s in spring training. That number doesn’t go on the back of my card, but it’s a teaching moment and I’ve got to come back and be better.”

Pregame update on Davis

Hyde reported that Chris Davis was sent for a precautionary MRI on his sore hip flexor. Davis told Hyde that he is feeling better, but Hyde said the Orioles just want to be sure of what they are dealing with.

Davis has not played in an exhibition game since March 3 and has not spoken to reporters about the injury.

No rush with Trumbo

Mark Trumbo continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired knee. He is hoping to be able to get some game action soon, but Hyde insists that the club will not put him on the field one day before he’s 100 percent healthy.

“I'm not going to put any kind of timeline on Mark,’’ Hyde said. “I want Mark to be healthy during the season. I don't want to force or rush. For me, Opening Day is just a number. It's a real special day, but it’s just one of 162, so I'm not trying to cram in his rehab to try and make it on that day.

“I want to do what's best for him, so if that means the middle of April or May, whatever it is… I want him to be 100 percent, not be 80 percent and have it nag throughout the season. I want to do what's best for him and allow him to not only help us, and put up good numbers for him, and for him to put up good numbers throughout the season."

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