Inside Bruce Chen’s long, winding journey to Cleveland, and why he might be the most interesting man in town
The Tribe purchased the contract of veteran left-hander Bruce Chen from Triple-A Columbus on Saturday, as the 37-year-old will make his 2015 season debut and first career appearance as a member of the Cleveland Indians this afternoon against the Minnesota Twins.
The Indians will be the 11th club that Chen has played for since making his Major League debut back in 1998 with the Atlanta Braves and he has a collectible from each stop to prove it.
“I either keep a hat, or I have a bunch of the baseball bags,” Chen said. “But, every single team is special for me and hopefully I can make this a very special time here in Cleveland. Eventually I’m going to sit down with all my kids and I’m going to talk to them for hours about every single team that I played for and what I accomplished.”
The Panama City, Panama, native pitched for the Kansas City Royals the past 6 years, but was released last September before the end of the season. After a tough season, Chen entered the offseason with some doubt about his baseball future.
“After the season, I did a self-evaluation,” he said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I started getting the urge back and one of the most important things was my daughters. I always tell them never give up, always follow your dreams, and work very hard to get it.”
Chen signed a Minor League contract with the Tribe two days before spring training camp began, knowing he would have to battle to earn a spot in the club’s rotation.
The Indians placed the left-hander in the rotation with Triple-A Columbus to begin the season, a decision that meant Chen would have to prove himself on the mound.
“It all depends on how bad you want it,” he said. “When you go down there, you realize how good you have it. A lot of guys have never been to the Big Leagues, they’re making very little money and they play hard. And you’re saying to yourself, ‘well I don’t want to be here’, you can’t be like that. For me, it wasn’t putting my ego aside; it was like, ‘hey, you know what’? I have done this before and I have to go out there and earn my way back.”
Chen excelled in 5 starts with the Clippers, throwing a club-high 31.0 innings and striking out 23 batters (2-1, 1.74ERA, 19H, 6R-ER, 3BB). Now, he hopes to continue that success with the Indians and prove to everyone that he can still get it done in the Major Leagues.
“I want to go out there and I want to give this everything I can and you know what? My kids are going to learn from this,” Chen said. “They aren’t going to give up just because something doesn’t go their way. That was one of the things I most wanted to do. I wanted to show my kids that if you want something, you don’t give up.”
Chen has won 82 career games and is one win away from passing Mariano Rivera as the Panamanian-born pitcher with the most MLB wins. Chen’s parents and family will all be at Progressive Field to watch the left-hander in his Tribe debut, but he said that won’t bring any additional pressure.
“I’m a dad and a father and I’m going to love my kids no matter what. So, hopefully they’re going to love me no matter what,” he said with a laugh. “You want to go out there and you don’t want to let anybody down, but the best thing you can do is give it your all, your best effort and hopefully things can come out well.”
–TribeVibe contributor Jerod Scheetz