April 18, 2005

Ex-Phil report: Bruce Chen

It’s taken 28-year-old Bruce Chen eight major-league backdrops to settle into a comfortable groove. Now with Baltimore, the former Phillie is starting to live up to his former prospect status. Scott Christ from the popular Orioles blog Camden Chat stops in to answer a few questions.

Phillies fans may remember Bruce Chen as the guy traded by the Atlanta Braves to the Phillies for Andy Ashby in 2000. After 31 uneventful starts between 00-01, he was sent along with prospect Adam Walker to the New York Mets for relief pitchers Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell . He’d go on to pitch for Montreal, Cincinnati, Houston and Boston before the Orioles' took a chance on the left-hander last summer. He pitched well during the stretch run, and so far this season, he’s 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts.

I asked Scott Christ from the Orioles blog Camden Chat his thoughts on the resurgence of Bruce Chen.

BPF: Bruce Chen is only 28 and has been everywhere. Do you think he's sticking around this time?

SC: It's kind of difficult to think Chen is going to stick around anywhere at this point, but yeah, he's still young and I think he's found a good place for himself. This is not a team that doesn't have the time to give Chen a good look in the rotation. If Chen is going to stick anywhere, Baltimore seems like the place, for now at least.

BPF: He's 1-0 with an ERA of 1.80 in his first two outings. In his brief time with Baltimore last season, he pitched well. In eight appearances, seven as a starter, he posted a 3.02 ERA (3.18 EQERA) and a 2-1 strikeout to walk ratio. What's been the difference since coming to Baltimore? Those represent the best numbers of his career.

SC: Maybe just maturity, learning over the years from countless different coaches and managers and fellow pitchers, but I think you have to credit Ray Miller at this point. Miller helped turn around the entire staff when he returned as the pitching coach in 2004, and he's seemed to work very well with both Chen and fellow lefty Erik Bedard. They're not throwing the fastball so much, instead using their offspeed pitches confidently.

When Chen was pitching against the Yankees a few days ago, Bedard sat in the dugout by Ray Miller with the ball held in his changeup grip. Chen was an artist in that start, baffling the Yankees and working both corners.

BPF: How do you see Chen finishing this year, and on a bigger scale, the rest of Baltimore's starting rotation?

SC: Chen has been Baltimore's best starter since the stretch run performance last year that you mentioned, which is all of ten games of course, but it's something to think about. He's still such a mystery in many ways, but I like him a lot and think this could be his year. I don't think he's ever going to really be an ace or a real frontline starter, but I think Chen could be a cog in the Baltimore rotation for a while.

This might be super optimistic, but I think Chen is going to win 12-15 games this year with an ERA around 3.70 or so; I expect a good, solid year.

As for the entire Baltimore staff, I like Chen, Bedard and Lopez, but Cabrera worries me greatly and Ponson is something of a train wreck, which basically means the two guys with the best stuff are the ones that give us grief. They should be better than last year,and I think overall they can put up numbers in line with their post-Ray Miller performance of 2004, maybe a little better.

Everyone talks about the offense, but I think Orioles fans are focusing more than anything else on the pitching. We know that's where it all starts and ends over 162 games.

Scott Christ writes for the popular Orioles blog Camden Chat and can be reached at sc@camdenchat.com.


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