Chen ready for a new chapter in his career with the Indians
Veteran lefty signs Minor League contract with a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Not many active players can say they once suited up for the Montreal Expos. That short list includes left-hander Bruce Chen, who is trying to defy his age in order to win a job with the Indians and have a shot at winning a World Series.
Standing at his locker inside Cleveland's spring complex on Wednesday morning, Chen said watching his former team, Kansas City, reach the Fall Classic last season only fueled his desire to keep pitching this year. He received a Minor League contract from the Indians, plus the chance to compete for a spot on the team's Opening Day pitching staff.
"I love the game," said the 37-year-old Chen. "I like the challenge and I like preparing myself in the offseason and putting everything to work during the season. Last year, I didn't really like the way I pitched. I know I got injured, but I saw the Royals play all the way to the postseason and it's something that I want to do. There's a lot of other things that I want to accomplish in this game. It's not over until it's over."
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway noted that Chen, who can earn a base salary of $1 million if he makes the Major League roster, will be stretched out as a starter this spring, but the lefty might be a possibility for the bullpen, too. At the moment, Cleveland has one spot open in the rotation and one or two jobs available in the 'pen, and there is a long list of candidates for both areas.
For now, Chen is not concerning himself too much with the wealth of competition.
"Obviously, I know that their rotation, they have some guys already penciled in some spots," said Chen, whose contract includes an opt-out clause for the end of Spring Training. "And there's a lot of stiff competition for that fifth spot. I'm just here to do everything I can to help this team win. I know they have some really good, talented, young pitchers."
Chen has gone 82-80 with a 4.58 ERA in 398 games (225 starts) in parts of 16 seasons spent with 10 ballclubs. Most recently, the lefty pitched for Kansas City in the '09-'14 campaigns, posting a 47-43 record and 4.53 ERA in 156 games (113) starts with the Royals. In 2014, Chen had a 7.45 ERA in 48 1/3 innings (13 appearances) and was released in early September.
Chen said he dealt with a back issue last season and he understood why Kansas City felt it had to part ways with him. The veteran also said he enjoyed watching the Royals' run through the postseason, even though he could not be there with his former teammates.
"I was proud of my ex-team. I was very proud of them," Chen said. "They worked very hard. They did everything and then they were on the main stage and they performed really well. It's not their fault that I wasn't pitching well. They had to make some roster moves and I wasn't helping the team. I was OK with that decision. I'm very happy, because even though I wasn't there, I felt like I helped contribute."
Chen is hoping he can find a way to contribute to Cleveland's pitching staff this season, too.
"My arm feels great. I feel like my back is as good as it's been," Chen said. "I feel like I still have a lot that I can give and offer to a team."