SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Wei-Yin Chen has become Baltimore’s biggest winner.
Just 12 months ago, Chen was an unknown for the Orioles.
The 27-year-old Taiwan native arrived in Baltimore by way of Japan, where he spent four seasons. The unknown turned into a huge bargain for Baltimore, who signed him to a three-year, $11 million contract before the 2012 season.
Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada and Chen were Baltimore’s big offseason acquisitions. Wada was the more publicized, but because he missed last season after Tommy John surgery, Chen has turned out to be the better signing so far.
After a 12-11 record with a 4.02 ERA last year, the left-hander has a good idea of what he’s looking for in 2013.
“Nothing different. Same approach. Same way. Same goals. This year, I want to be more competitive,” Chen said through his translator.
Even though he still needs Tim Lin to interpret for him, Chen has easily adapted to the U.S. He’s picked up lots of American slang.
“I learned a lot from last season. I have so many experiences from last year, and this year, I want to be fully prepared and ready before the season starts,” Chen said,
He didn’t know much about the major leagues before he joined the Orioles. After he faced the Minnesota Twins in one of his first starts last March, Chen said he had no idea who Joe Mauer was. Now, he’s more familiar with players.
“I learned a lot from here, competition and competitiveness. The hitters were a surprise to me,” Chen said. “Their power, once you make one mistake, you have to pay the price. In Japan, you can throw a lot of pitches and make a mistake and come back. Here, once you make a mistake, you have to pay the price. That’s the (main) thing I learned this year.”
Over the winter, Chen stayed in California to train with former Orioles outfielder and now team executive Brady Anderson. He became a father to a son, Karsten, and even went on a road trip to Las Vegas with a few of his teammates.
Chen appreciates what he learned.
“Training in California helped me prepare for a full spring training,” Chen said. “In Japan, we run a lot. We don’t do weightlifting. Here, during the season we still do weightlifting. We don’t run a lot here. This is a huge difference between Asian baseball and here. This helps me a lot, and I’ve learned a lot from Brady.”
Last November, his son Karsten arrived, and what a change it’s been for Chen.
“It surprised me a lot. Before when I went back home, I thought about what I did today, and think about all the baseball, the on-the-field stuff. Right now, I can look at my kid, and enjoy this environment. I enjoy baseball much more because I have to take care of kids.”
Since he acclimated so well to the U.S. in his first season, it seems obvious to ask if Chen would like to make this his home.
“I’m not sure I would like stay permanently, but I can tell you I love America. I love the life here,” he said.
NOTES: Wada threw 25 pitches on Wednesday morning in his second bullpen session since his Tommy John surgery. “My elbow and overall body-wise, conditioning-wise, I do feel stronger. As time goes by I feel like I’m going to be able to swing my arms faster too,” Wada said. … RHP Luis Ayala pitched so much during the winter in Mexico that the Orioles probably won’t schedule him to pitch until well into March.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)