Nearly two years after he retired from baseball, left-hander Bruce Chen is getting ready to pitch for China in the World Baseball Classic.
The 39-year-old Chen retired after the Cleveland Indians designated him for assignment on May 15, 2015, and none of the other teams claimed him off waivers. When the team from China reached out to him late last year, Chen wondered if it was looking for a pitching coach.
The Indians had appointed him as a cultural development coordinator and supported his decision to get back on the mound. Chen’s main worry was how his decision would be received. His grandparents were born in China, but he grew up in Panama and pitched on its team in 2006 and 2009.
Chen was afraid people in Panama wouldn’t like it but when the news broke, people were happy.
Chen is taking several members of his family with him to Tokyo, where China will play its opening games in the WBC. His 13-year-old daughter is learning the language in school and will serve as his translator with teammates.
Chen pitched in the majors for 17 years, going 82-81 with a 4.68 ERA. He played for the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers, Royals and Indians. He started two games for Cleveland in 2015 and went 0-1, giving up nine runs in 6 1/3 innings. When no other team wanted him, he decided it was time to move on.
Chen wasn’t like Mariano Rivera, who declared his retirement at the start of the year. He didn’t know when his last game was going to be but he was fine with retirement.
The Indians appointed him to help players transition from their countries to life in the major leagues. Chen had no thought of playing again until the team from China reached out to him.
He lives in Arizona and started throwing in January. He’s worried about how he’ll perform after such a long layoff.
he has been through spring training 17 years, but he was nervous in front of the players. It’s the competitive nature. You know you are around the best players in the world. You don’t want to look like you don’t belong there.
Once he started throwing, Chen realized how much he missed competing.
NOTE:The Indians signed left-hander James Russell to a minor league deal and invited him to camp. The 31-year-old pitcher has played for the Cubs, Braves and Phillies over seven seasons. He appeared in seven games for Philadelphia last season and gave up nine runs in 4 1/3 innings. He’s the son of former Reds pitcher Jeff Russell.