Journeyman Chen back in majors, to make start tonight vs. Athletics

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Former Braves prospect now with 9th organization

Notebook

August 25, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Orioles catcher Javy Lopez remembers when Bruce Chen was considered one of the best young pitching prospects in baseball. Lopez was there when Chen made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves in 1998.

Six years and eight organizations later, Chen will get another chance, when he starts tonight for the Orioles against the Oakland Athletics.

"I guess when he left Atlanta, things changed for him," Lopez said of Chen, 27, who arrived yesterday from Triple-A Ottawa, where he went 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA. "He was a big, quality pitcher at that time."

A 6-foot-2 left-hander, Chen went 4-0 with a 2.50 ERA with the Braves in 2000 before they traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for Andy Ashby.

That started the ball bouncing. The Phillies traded Chen to the New York Mets, who traded him to the Montreal Expos, who traded him to the Cincinnati Reds.

After getting released by the Reds, Chen signed with the Houston Astros, followed by the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.

Chen said he thought his career was pretty much finished this season when the Blue Jays placed him on the Triple-A disabled list with what he called "a phantom injury." Toronto made the move to make room for another pitcher, he said.

But the Blue Jays traded him to the Orioles for future considerations, and Chen starting having success again at Ottawa.

"I think I'm a much better pitcher than I was five years ago," Chen said. "Every year, I've gotten better. I've just gotten more mature, and gotten better command of my pitches."

The Orioles promoted Chen to replace the struggling Dave Borkowski in the starting rotation, and Borkowski was moved to the bullpen. The team delayed making a corresponding roster move until tonight.

For Chen, this figures to be more than a one-start audition.

"We want to see what he can do," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Majewski sits again

The Orioles view Val Majewski as one of their top positional prospects, but he has started just one game since getting promoted from Double-A Bowie last Wednesday.

Normally teams are reluctant to move their prospects to a level where they won't get playing time. However, the Orioles made the move out of necessity when outfielders Jerry Hairston (fractured left ankle) and Larry Bigbie (strained groin) went on the disabled list the same day.

Majewski entered Monday night's game after center fielder Karim Garcia was ejected for disputing a called third strike by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi. Majewski made a dandy running catch on the warning track in the eighth inning, robbing Eric Chavez of a hit.

Mazzilli said he would consider starting Majewski in center field, but didn't want to subject the young left-handed hitter to A's left-hander Mark Mulder last night.

"I don't think it would be fair to him to put him in against Mulder coming out of Double-A," Mazzilli said.

Bigbie took swings off the batting tee yesterday and said he should be ready to return when he's eligible to come off the DL, Sept. 1. Mazzilli said he still expects David Segui (left knee surgery) to come off the DL that day, as well.

Lopez scratched

The Orioles scratched Lopez from last night's starting lineup after he experienced back spasms during the team's pre-game stretching exercises. His back has been bothering him some of late, and he's day-to-day.

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