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If Blake Treinen would have had his way, he'd be making his way through the Florida Marlins farm system this summer as a second-year pro. Instead, he'll take his chances in the Oakland organization after signing last month as a member of the 2011 draft class.
The 6'4'' right-hander was drafted in the 23rd round by the Marlins out of South Dakota State last June and flew to South Florida in anticipation of signing a professional contract. After being out of baseball for nearly three years, Treinen was just happy to have a chance to turn pro after one season of college baseball and had agreed to Florida's terms.
But that's where his future plans took a huge detour. During a routine pre-signing MRI, the Marlins found enough inflammation in Treinen's rotator cuff to void his contract. The dejected Treinen was sent home, and he even had to repay his travel expenses to the Marlins in order to regain his college eligibility.
"It was hard to grasp at first," said Treinen. "I worked so hard to get to that point. Three years before that, I couldn't have guessed I'd get drafted. I didn't know how the process would turn around and if I'd be able to do it again. I thought I would have a bad stamp on me that no one else would want to take a chance on me."
Treinen blames the MRI results on bad timing. He had just pitched three days prior and jumped on a plane from San Jose to Kansas City, without doing any post-start conditioning. The next day, he completed the final leg of his trip from Kansas City to Florida.
"I didn't really have time to do what most pitchers do to recover," Treinen said. "I had thrown 86 innings in a year, so there was going to be a little inflammation anyway. They just deemed there was too much inflammation and didn't want to take a risk."
Treinen retreated to Brookings, South Dakota, for his second season of college ball and compiled another banner season for the Jackrabbits. The right-hander posted a 7-3 record and 3.00 ERA in 13 starts this spring.
With Treinen still on the board in the seventh round, the A's were sold enough to make him the 226th overall pick in the '11 draft. The Marlins' loss turned into Treinen's gain, as the college pitcher was actually picked 16 rounds higher.
So much for the "bad stamp" that he was worried about.
"They did MRIs and compared them, along with dye injections," Treinen said.
"They determined that there was nothing that any other player wouldn't have in their shoulder. (With another year) I felt like I became an overall better pitcher on the mound. I didn't play summer ball and just worked on getting stronger with preventative rehab. As a result, my velocity jumped and accuracy was a lot better. I'm excited to see what the future holds for me. I'm a very blessed individual."
Although he wasn't surprised to get drafted where he did, Treinen wasn't expecting the A's to come calling.
"I thought the teams that I did workouts for would call me because I had good workouts for them," he said.
"Some other teams had been following me for two years. I had only heard from the A's once or twice and it was real short conversations. I was told higher than I would go, but that's how it goes for everybody. I was waiting around and the next thing I know my name pops up. Then my agent calls and I heard from the guy who scouted and drafted me."
Once again, Treinen agreed to a professional team's contract terms and was on his way to the A's minor league complex in Arizona.
"With my age, I'm 23 now and wanted to give myself the best opportunity to move through a system," Treinen said.
"Yeah I wanted to get what I deserved as a player, but I didn't set out to make a ton of money on my signing bonus. But it was nice for me to pay off college with it. I wasn't on scholarship, so it was nice to get that taken care of."
Treinen's story is a remarkable one, and not just because of his injury misfortune and re-entry into the draft. It's that he's gotten an opportunity to pitch in the pros when no one gave him much of a shot to play college baseball.
A native of Ossage City, Kansas, Treinen settled on nearby Baker University, an NAIA school, coming out of high school. After a season on the junior varsity team and without the benefit of a pitching coach, Treinen left for what he thought would be greener pastures.
He transferred to the University of Arkansas with the idea of trying out for a spot on the team.
"I was just going to try walking on, but they laughed at me and said ‘are you kidding me,'" Treinen said. "So I thought baseball was over with and I just went for school. Halfway through the year I started missing baseball again and got an opportunity at South Dakota State."
But it wasn't that easy. In order to become eligible, Treinen would have to sit out one season. So he spent his third straight season off the diamond. However, once Treinen finally did get the opportunity to play college baseball he made his presence known. He went on to become a two-time, first-team all-Summit League pitcher and posted a 14-4 career record with 166 strikeouts in 159.1 innings.
With his college career and draft mishaps behind him, Treinen can now focus on being a professional.
After signing with the A's, Treinen was assigned to the A's rookie league team in Arizona where he fired three scoreless innings in the bullpen and struck out seven. Oakland promoted the 23-year old to Burlington last week, where he'll likely pitch between 30-35 innings of relief in the next couple months. Treinen, whose fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s and can reach 97 MPH, said he's unsure if he'll transition back into the rotation next spring.
Either way, Treinen is in a far better place than he was last year at this time.
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