Carroll County Times

Orioles: Smooth debut for Chen

SARASOTA, Fla. - Wei-Yin Chen was excited.

The 26-year-old is new to America, new to American baseball. On Wednesday afternoon, he got the chance to pitch in an American League game - sort of.

Chen faced the Minnesota Twins-none of whom he was familiar with, he readily admitted afterward.

The Twins are now familiar with him. The left-hander allowed one hit in two innings, and completed his stint by striking out the side - three left-handers - in the second.

Chen's economical performance set the tone for a 6-0 Orioles win over Minnesota before 5,080 at Ed Smith Stadium.

On Saturday, Chen faced five batters in an intrasquad game, and had to be pulled after he reached his pitch limit. Thirty-one pitches and two outs weren't good enough.

He noted that the mound gave him difficulty, and he had trouble with the feel of the American-style ball, Chen said.

All of that was forgotten on Wednesday.

"I'm still a human being. I'm still nervous the first time. I felt much better because this was the second time I was on the mound," Chen said through his translator.

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters has made Chen one of his special projects for the spring, and it's paid off. Chen said he loves throwing to the All-Star catcher.

"The last time I don't feel comfortable on the mound, but today, I adjusted a lot, and I felt comfortable throwing the ball to Matt," Chen said.

He started off by polishing the Twins off in the first. Then Aaron Bates singled to lead off the second, but Chen struck out Brian Dinkelman, Sean Burroughs and Ben Revere.

About 80 percent of the pitches he threw were fastballs, Chen said, and no, Denard Span, Josh Willingham and Revere weren't household names in Taiwan.

"No, not at all, but I feel like they have a lot of lefties.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had five left-handed hitters in his lineup, and Chen retired them all.

Not only did Chen not know the Twins, but they had no clue about him, either.

"I think the most important thing is the Twins' batters don't know me. That's why I can strike out three guys in a row," Chen said.

Manager Buck Showalter is enjoying having Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada on the team, and noted that they fit in well.

"In the locker room, both of those guys, they know when it's time to be serious. They blend," Showalter said.

"You can tell they've been in locker rooms before. The guys have done a great job making them feel comfortable. You can see some of their personality come out."

ROBERTS PROGRESSING: Brian Roberts is getting better. On Wednesday morning, Roberts said that he feels better than he did last year, but refused to say when he'd be ready to play.

Nearly 10 months ago, Roberts suffered his second concussion and hasn't played since.

"I'm definitely better than I was four months ago, so that's good. It's never as fast as you want, but I'm getting there," Roberts said. "We'll see what the next step is. I have no idea."

Roberts has run sprints and taken some limited batting and fielding practice-out of public view.

"I'd love to be out there from Day One, doing everything, with no restrictions, of course," Roberts said. There's times when it drives you nuts."

Roberts was noncommittal about when he might play in a game.

"I look at today-that's it," Roberts said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Wada (left elbow) and Willie Eyre (groin) threw well in the bullpen. ... Nick Markakis ran sprints and felt strong, Showalter reported. ... The Orioles host Atlanta on Thursday. Jason Hammel, Troy Patton and Miguel Socolovich are among the pitchers scheduled to throw.