By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun
5:54 PM EST, February 27, 2012
SARASOTA, Fla. —
It's only a few days into Wei-Yin Chen's introduction to major league baseball, but the Orioles are already impressed with what they've seen out of the Taiwanese left-hander.
Chen threw his first live batting practice session to hitters Monday at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. While the drill was mainly for pitch tracking -- hitters were in the batter's box but did not swing -- Chen stood out by pinpointing his fastball.
"I felt like he had really good control," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "He knew what he was doing. His fastball had some life to it. He threw me all four-seam fastballs, [and] mostly everything was in. His fastball was really good. He's definitely dotting them with good life. Overall, I think he's got good stuff."
Of Chen's 35 live pitches, he threw mainly four-seamers against hitters and wasn't afraid to come inside on right-handers while mixing in his two-seamer, slider and curveball.
"He threw well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's been impressive. He had a good look in his eye. You can see why he's had success. It was fun watching him throw today with a hitter in there. It's progression with all of them. He looks pretty comfortable."
Chen, who pitched the past four years for the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League, signed a three-year, $11.388 million deal with a 2015 club option with the Orioles in January. He is one of a dozen starting rotation candidates and could land a top-half rotation spot.
Chen said he is adjusting well to the American game, despite its quicker pace compared with the longer spring training in Japan.
"Here, it's much faster," Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. "In Japan, they will have two weeks for bullpen sessions. Here, it's just one week of bullpen and then the next week facing hitters and the third week it is a game. I just need to put it all together, so there's not that big a difference."
Showalter said Sunday's treatment to left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada (left elbow discomfort) has already shown "positive results."
Wada, who had elbow sugery in 2007 and missed much of 2009 with elbow issues, had his elbow drained and received a cortisone shot.
"I think a lot of people are talking to him, whether it's [pitching coach] Rick [Adair] or the trainers," Showalter said. "I'm trying to give him a little space but at the same time get up to speed. I don't want him wondering if I know what's going on and doubting him or whatever. I'd probably feel worse about it if it wasn't something he had been going through before. We'll see."
Hoiles getting feet wet
Former Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles, who is in his first year as a spring training instructor, will head to work with the minor league camp at Twin Lakes Park as soon as today. Hoiles is one of seven former Orioles who are serving as spring instructors.
"With Chris, he wants to be involved but we want him to make sure," Showalter said. "I think a lot of ex-players who have had good careers don't realize the commitment it takes. It's a seven-day-a-week grind. Before he commits and we commit to him, it's kind of a -- I wouldn't call it a tryout -- but let's see if this is something you want to do.
"Chris understands that, and he's got something to bring. It always means a little more to a guy who played most of his career here."
Showalter said Alan Mills, another former Oriole, who will be the new pitching coach at short-season Single-A Aberdeen, will also head to minor league camp.
"Alan's got a chance to be a real good coach," Showalter said. "He's got a lot of attributes you're looking for. He's got good presence, and he's not going to want to hear about a hangnail in Aberdeen."
The Orioles' two scheduled intrasquad games Friday and Saturday will be nine innings each, but pitchers from major league camp will pitch only the first six innings each day.
Showalter said he will use 18 to 20 pitchers in those games, but not all of them will be from major league camp. The remainder will be shuttled in from Twin Lakes Park.
The Orioles will need plenty of pitchers. The team opens its Grapefruit League schedule with a day-night doubleheader Monday. The Orioles will open with a 1:05 p.m. game against the Rays in Port Charlotte, then host the Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium at 7:05 p.m.
Around the horn
Left-hander Zach Britton (left shoulder inflammation) continued his throwing progression with another session off flat ground. At this point, the main goal is to raise his pitch count. He will throw again today. Right-hander Jason Berken is stilll out with a left hamstring injury. "It's slow, but it's moving," Showalter said. Heavy rains came through the complex just after the Orioles wrapped up their workout Monday. "We need it," Showalter said. There's still no word on whether catcher Ronny Paulino and pitcher Dennys Reyes, delayed by visa issues, will report to camp.
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