Doubtful that many of you—if any at all—remember Bruce Chen, the Panamanian-born Chinese pitcher who reached the Braves in the ’90s. Bruce was a clean-cut young man, and he reported to spring training the most promising young pitcher on the staff. Started the first spring game against Houston, and sorry to say, did not fare well. This was a percursor of things to come.
Eventually, Chen was traded to the Phillies for Andy Ashby, and the revolving door was only beginning its whirl.
He has been traded or changed teams 16 times as his career made many a twist and turn. I noticed his name in the Kansas City box score the other day, a positive note, I should point out. He was awarded a save in a game with the Royals, recently promoted from their farm system.
Now, since Chen first appeared with the Braves he has worn the uniform of eight clubs in both major leagues: Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, Baltimore, Texas and now Kansas City, with occasional visits to the minor leagues. He has started and relieved, but the most arresting figure in his cluttered career has been Leo Mazzone, now a broadcaster on a sports station in Atlanta.
Mazzone was the Braves pitching coach when Chen arrived with such glitttering promise. When he failed to live up to his billing, it was as if Mazzone took it personally. But wait for the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey used to say.
When Mazzone left the Braves for a fat contract with the Orioles, who should he find on the staff he was inheriting but—Bruce Chen! That relationship didn’t last long, nor did Mazzone as Orioles’ pitching coach. But say this for Chen—he is still in the big leagues.
By this time, this very nice fellow is 33 years old. He has won 36 games and lost 43, starting and relieving, not counting his movement up and down, to and from the minor leagues. During this time, he has collected accumulated salaries that amount to $6,507,000.
Not bad, for a pitcher who often came close, failed and fell back, then arose to win again. No bigtime story here, but a consuming study that stresses that old saying: Never, never give up, but try, try again and something good may come your way.