Just prior to the matchup between the Eau Claire Express and Mankato MoonDogs in Mankato on July 10th, Express pitcher Devan Kline was pulled from the Express dugout and taken to the MoonDogs offices. The San Francisco Giants had faxed a contract offer for the junior right-hander from Central Michigan. Kline was presented with the rare opportunity to sign as a free-agent prior to his senior year despite not being drafted. In 2005 NWL MVP Ryan Rogowski (Illinois) signed a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers immediately following his outstanding NWL season and just prior to beginning what would have been his senior year. Kline will look to follow in the footsteps of several successful Express pitchers in professional baseball, the most notable being rising young star Jordan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals.
Article Courtesy of Josh Metz, Media Relations Intern, Eau Claire Express:
The Eau Claire Express began the season searching for a closer. Kole Calhoun (Arizona St.) was the closer the previous two years, but since he was playing in the College World Series he was not going to arrive until later in the season.
Devan Kline (Central Michigan) came to the team and wanted to step into the closer role. He did much more than step in and fill the closer role, he flourished. Kline converted 13 of 13 saves and was dominant in the ninth inning.
Kline pitched so well, that he started to gain attention from the professional teams. Even though the Major League Baseball draft came and went without his name being called, Kline still got attention.
The San Francisco Giants organization showed an interest in Kline and scouts came to a few Express games to watch him pitch. Kline impressed them enough that he was offered a contract. Over the past weekend, Kline signed the contract and is now ready to begin his professional career.
In the spring Kline pitched for Central Michigan and he fared alright, but his numbers were certainly not overwhelming. Kline finished the season with a 7.40 ERA and appeared in 18 games. Kline did not have a defined role with the team however, and was occasionally used as a starter.
But with the Express, things were clearly different. It was obvious that Kline found his calling as a closer. He had a defined role where he knew he was getting the ball with a lead in the ninth inning and he flourished. Kline finished his short summer season with a 1.27 ERA and allowed only three runs. Opponents only hit .135 against Kline this summer.
Kline will certainly be missed in the Express bullpen. With Kline, every game was an eight inning game for the Express because they knew that the ninth belonged to Kline if there was a lead.
Everyone with the Express will miss Kline and his ability, but we certainly wish him the most success in his professional baseball career.