Series of poor outings shake Kline's confidence

Friday, May 2, 2003

By R.B. Fallstrom ~ The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Steve Kline, who used to be Mr. Reliable out of the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen, can't seem to buy an out right now.

The left-hander has allowed at least one run in three of his past four outings, and six runs overall in 6 1-3 innings. During that span he has two losses, a victory and a blown save, his second in five chances as the stand-in closer for injured Jason Isringhausen.

"Maybe if I could pitch against a Little League team somewhere around here, maybe I can help myself out," Kline said. "I probably won't get them out."

Kline was a durable set-up man his first two seasons with the Cardinals, totaling 15 saves. But after giving up three runs in the eighth inning Thursday as the New York Mets tied the score in St. Louis' 6-5, 10-inning victory, his ERA is at 5.11.

It cost starter Brett Tomko a victory.

"I feel bad for my starters," Kline said. "They've got to watch this slop, and it's slop when I go in there."

Manager Tony La Russa tried to minimize Kline's troubles, saying that the Mets' hitters simply found some holes. He also noted that Rey Sanchez singled off the first-base bag to load the bases in the eighth, conveniently leaving out that it would have been an RBI double down the line otherwise.

"Thank God the bag stopped it," Kline said.

La Russa said he visited with a frustrated Kline after the game.

"He deserved much better than that and that's what our bullpen has been going through right now," La Russa said. "They've just got to tough it out and some of those ground balls will be right at somebody instead of finding holes."

Kline didn't want to hear any of that.

"He's my manager, he's got to stick up for me," Kline said. "I've got to figure it out. Until I figure it out it's going to be a long, freaking year."

The way Kline is going, he's not looking forward to getting the bad taste out of his system and getting back on the mound. He also took no solace in three scoreless innings and a victory at the end of the Cardinals' 20-inning victory at Florida on Sunday, saying the Marlins' bats probably were tired from the long game.

"I'm done," he said. "I'm mentally beat right now. I hope I don't see a ball for three months. I don't want to see a ball for five months."

He's not sure what's wrong.

"It's the million-dollar question, isn't it?" he said. "If I knew the answer, I'd tell you."

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