ST. PAUL, MN (March 6, 2014) – The St. Paul Saints pitching staff continues to get deeper each week and they added a gem to their starting rotation in the most recent batch. The Saints signed free agent, and former third-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, Nick Barnese while re-signing pitchers Dustin Klabunde and Mackenzie King.
The 25-year-old right-handed Barnese last pitched in 2012, taking a year away from baseball in 2013. He spent all of 2012 at the Rays Double-A affiliate in Montgomery and went 3-1 with a 5.72 ERA in 13 games (12 starts). In 56.2 innings pitched he walked 25 and struck out 30 while opponents hit .295 against him. Bothered by shoulder problems to begin the year, he made his first appearance in June at the Gulf Coast Level, making one start before heading to Double-A.
The third round pick out of Simi Valley (CA) High School in 2007 he wowed the Rays organization during his first five seasons. Selected by the Rays in the same draft as David Price (1st Round) and Matt Moore (8th round) he dazzled his first season in the organization going 2-2 with a 3.22 ERA at Princeton in the Rookie Appalachian League. He was rewarded the following season when he went 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts at Low-A Hudson Valley. In 66.0 innings pitched he walked 24 and struck out 84 while opponents hit just .212 against him. He was selected to both the New York-Penn League All-Star Team and as a Baseball America Short-Season All-Star.
After another stellar season in 2009 at Single-A Bowling Green, where he went 6-5 with a 2.53 ERA in 15 starts while opponents hit a miniscule .202 against him, he stepped up his game again in 2010 at High-A Charlotte. Barnese was selected to the Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star Game and finished the season 8-4 with a 3.02 ERA in 21 games (20 starts). He pitched a career high 122.1 innings and walked just 26 while striking out 100 as opponents hit .246 against him.
The 25-year-old right-handed Klabunde went 2-0 with a 4.72 ERA in 30 relief appearances with the Saints last season. In 47.2 innings pitched he walked 24 and struck out 29 while opponents hit .249 against him during his second professional season.
Klabunde was signed as a free agent on June 12, 2012 and he went 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA and 10 saves in 34 games (one start). In 42.0 innings pitched he walked 21 and struck out 22 while opponents hit .290 against him. In his professional debut Klabunde pitched 3.0 perfect innings of relief against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and his season took off from that point. Over his first seven relief appearance, spanning 10.2 innings pitched, Klabunde allowed just one run. During a stretch of more than a month from July 9 – August 11he allowed just two earned runs in 15.1 innings pitched.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Klabunde had a solid senior season going 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA and one save in 16 appearances (one start). In 32.0 innings pitched he walked six and struck out 22 while opponents hit .248 against him.
Klabunde had shoulder surgery in 2009 and pitched in just five games in 2011. He graduated from McLeaod High School and was a two-time All-State, All-Area and three-time All-Conference honoree and was named the team’s MVP twice. Klabunde was a multi-sport athlete and was named a two-time Conference Player of the Year, a three-time All-Conference selection and the team’s three-time MVP in basketball along with an All-Conference selection in football his senior season.
The 26-year-old right-handed King joined the Saints on August 25 of last season when he was claimed off of waivers from the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Between the two teams he was 3-3 with a 4.06 ERA and one save in 37 relief appearances. In 68.2 innings pitched he walked 25 and struck out 31 while opponents hit .254 against him.
King began his professional career in 2011 with the Pittsfield Colonials of the Independent Can-Am League. In 2012 he spent the entire season with the Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am League and went 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA and one save in 30 games (two starts).
King is a graduate of Pace University (NY) where he holds both the freshman and school record for strikeouts with 43 and 221 respectively.
The Saints have signed 12 players during the off-season, nine pitchers and three position players. The Saints 2014 season begins on May 15 with a 7:05 p.m. game against the defending American Association Champion Gary SouthShore Railcats.