In the little time he's been here, Chen has been a quick study. He said he never worked on pickoff moves in Japan, but after a crash course with Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair, he picked two Red Sox base runners off first and nearly a third off second in a start on March 17.

And early on, he answered questions about his velocity dipping into the high 80s in his final season in Japan. He's been consistently in the 91-93 range. His slider-curve -- his out pitch in Japan -- has been steady, and he spent his final spring starts concentrating on a change-up that Orioles manager Buck Showalter said could be a key weapon against American League lineups.

In Sarasota, Chen said the main difference between the U.S. and Taiwan was that restaurants and stores closed much earlier here. Through his interpreter, Chen said he hasn't been able to find much Asian food in Florida or Baltimore.

"There's not much here," he said. "I have to control my nutrition. I end up eating a lot. That's the only thing I need to adjust to."

His new favorite food?

"Steak," he said in English.

Chen has already made his own goals for this season. This year, it's to get adjusted and stay healthy, but by 2013 he wants to make at least 30 starts and throw 200 innings.

Back home in Taiwan, everybody will be watching. They've seen countryman Chien-Ming Wang have success in the majors before. The right-hander had back-to-back 19-win seasons with the Yankees in 2006 and '07, along the way making the Yankees a popular team in Taiwan.

Jessica Ni, a Washington-based reporter who covers Chen and Wang (now with the Nationals) for Taiwanese network TVBS, said Chen's success could do the same for the Orioles in Taiwan.

"The fans are watching Chen's performance closely," she said. "Usually, when Wang was with the Yankees, they carried all the Yankees games in Taiwan. Now they are taking Orioles games.

"When [Nationals slugger] Michael Morse drove in runs [for Wang], he was nicknamed 'Friend of Taiwan,'" she said. "Maybe sometime in the future, with the Orioles, there might be a player nicknamed 'Friend of Taiwan.'"

If Chen starts off well, he will have plenty of quick friends in Baltimore.

"All of this is a dream come true," Chen said. "Right now, I just want to prove to everybody that I can pitch here."

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/eddieintheyard