Chen reflects on road back to big leagues
Veteran hurler will make Indians debut Saturday after some inspiration from daughter
CLEVELAND -- Bruce Chen has been to the big leagues before, more often than most pitchers can claim for a career. As he stood in front of his new locker in the home clubhouse at Progressive Field on Friday, though, it was still a special moment for the veteran left-hander.
Chen, who will be officially added to the roster on Saturday to start against the Twins, took a lesson from one of his daughters over the offseason. The conversation that the 37-year-old Chen had with 11-year-old Gabriela actually helped pave the way for him trying to return for a 17th Major League season.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I started getting the urge back," Chen said. "One of the most important things was my daughters. I always tell them, 'Never give up. Always follow your dreams. Work very hard to get it.' She's doing ballet. She got the lead part. She was hurt. I said to her, 'A lot of people are depending on you, but what do you want to do?' She said, 'I don't want to let them down. I want to work hard.'
"I said, 'Are you sure?' She said, 'When you had surgery, did you quit?' I said, 'No.' [She said], 'I don't want to quit.' At that point, I realized that they do listen to me and they do pay attention. I said, 'You know what? That's right. I don't want this to be the end. I want to go out there and give everything I can. My kids are going to learn from this.'"
Following an injury-marred season with Kansas City last year, Chen signed a Minor League contract with Cleveland on Feb. 17 and tried to make the Opening Day roster. When the lefty did not make the cut, rather than opt out of the deal, he willingly accepted an assignment to Triple-A Columbus and posted a 1.74 ERA with 23 strikeouts and three walks in five starts.
When Indians lefty TJ House landed on the disabled list last week with shoulder inflammation, an opportunity came up for Chen to return to the Major Leagues with Cleveland, his 11th big league club.
"It's amazing, his attitude," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "A guy that's pitched that long, and most of it in the Major Leagues, goes down to Triple-A and seems to genuinely enjoy every second of it."
Chen plans on enjoying every second of his first start with the Indians, who plan on taking a look at him as the fifth starter beyond Saturday's outing. When he got word that he was returning to the Majors, Chen not only told his family right away, but he actually called his parents, who will be making the journey from Panama to watch their son pitch against the Twins.
"When I told [my daughters] that daddy was going back to the big leagues," Chen said, "that was one of the greatest moments as a father, to tell your kids. Then I told my dad. When my daughter tells me something like that, it makes me so happy, so I told my mom and dad. I'm very grateful for this opportunity."