SARASOTA, Fla. – For the second time this spring, Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen went to the team’s minor league complex at Twin Lakes Park on Monday’s off day to build his innings and work on his pitches.
Chen has made just two Grapefruit League starts this spring, partially because Orioles manager Buck Showalter wants to avoid pitching him against American League East competition in big league games.
On Monday, he pitched five innings against a Rays Class-A team with no worry that major league hitters could see him there. Pitching in the minor league camp also allows a more controlled environment. But against a free-swinging minor league lineup, Chen said he really couldn’t get into a rhytym.
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“I tried my best,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “But these minor leaguers swing at every pitch I throw, so it messes up my tempo a little bit. … It doesn’t matter whether I pitch in minor league spring training or major league spring training. It’s still a game so you have to give your best effort on the mound I think I’m still working on that.”
In five innings of work, Chen allowed three runs – two earned – on five hits, striking out one, walking two and hitting a batter. He threw a spring-high 78 pitches, 53 of them strikes.
Chen was hurt by three errors and he also had two baserunners picked off first base before the rundowns were botched.
“I wouldn’t complain about the defense because in the major leagues you always have errors behind you, so I wanted to work on my stuff,” Chen said.
With Showalter, executive vice president Dan Duquette and pitching coach Rick Adair watching, Chen concentrated on locating his four-seam and two-seam fastballs along both sides of the plate.
Chen allowed three singles, include a two-out RBI single, in his final inning of work, with his fastball sitting at 87 on the backstop radar guns.
“I still felt really strong in my last inning,” Chen said. “In the last inning, I only worked on my fastball and changeup so they hit all my fastballs. That’s the only thing.”