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Orioles Claim Pat Valaika, Designate Branden Kline

The Orioles announced Thursday that they’ve re-claimed infielder Pat Valaika off waivers from the Diamondbacks and designated right-hander Branden Kline for assignment in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster.

Baltimore designated Valaika for assignment earlier this month, surely hoping to pass him through waivers and retain him without dedicating a 40-man roster spot to the 27-year-old. Instead, the Diamondbacks claimed him and briefly hung onto him until needing a roster spot of their own following the acquisition of Starling Marte. The O’s have been on the lookout for infield depth since losing Valaika, and they’ll now welcome him back into the organization at Kline’s expense.

A career .214/.256/.400 hitter who has shown plenty of pop from the right side of the dish, Valaika has experience at each of second base, shortstop and third base. However, he’s also punched out in nearly 29 percent of his trips to the plate in the big leagues, which has contributed significantly to his inability to reach base at a passable rate. Valaika does have a minor league option remaining and a career .275/.315/.498 slash 695 Triple-A plate appearances, making him a reasonable depth option for the rebuilding Orioles to carry on the roster even if he doesn’t break camp with the club this spring.

The 28-year-old Kline made his MLB debut in 2019 but was hit hard, logging a 5.93 ERA and a 34-to-19 K/BB ratio in 41 innings of relief. He averaged a hearty 96.3 mph on his four-seamer in that time but generated below-average spin and yielded hard contact at far too great a clip (49.2 percent, per Statcast). Kline has had some success up through the Double-A level but has yet to post strong numbers in limited time with Triple-A Norfolk or in the Majors.

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