Manager Buck Showalter had his pick of impact players to talk about following today's 6-1 victory over the Athletics. Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen seemed like a good starting point.
"The breaking ball and the changeup have really gotten better since the spring," Showalter said. "He and Rick (Adair) have done a great job with it. That's made his fastball that much better. I've had some really good pitchers and on nights when they're carrying really good stuff, there always seems to be deep counts and more pitches thrown because a hitter is looking for something out of a guy's hand that's inviting to swing at, and if it's not, there are a lot of pitches taken and foul balls. I think that hurt him some."
Chen had to leave after 5 2/3 innings with his pitch count at 108.
"You've got to give them some credit for that, too," Showalter said. "And better stuff, it's not like they're going to be putting the ball in play early in the count. He was a guy that Rick and our trainers feel like has really gotten into the program of the five day. As you can see, we've been very careful with him all year and this stretch without an off-day, we felt like we'd have a feel for whether he'd be able to handle it. And I feel like today was a good answer for us."
Is Chen the staff ace?
"I don't look at it that way," Showalter replied. "I know you could make a case statistically, but our No. 1 starter is the guy who's pitching that day. He's handled himself well and he's been consistent for the most part. He's a real competitive guy. Every once in a while it'll slip out publicly. He holds himself to high standards. I see the work he does between starts to be there for his team. And he likes to win. He doesn't just like to win the day that he pitches. He likes the Orioles to win. And he's been fun to watch."
Chen has allowed one run or fewer in six starts this year. Today, his 12 strikeouts set a single-game major league record for a Taiwanese pitcher.
"I'm sure he'll be modest about it, but there's not a second you don't take that in," Showalter said. "When you talk about the history of baseball, it always gets my attention. He's been a pleasure to be around and I like to see good things happen to people who go about their business the way he does. It was fun to watch, but he'll be frustrated because he didn't finish off the sixth inning. But it was fun to watch. I don't for a second not take in what it means to the people of Taiwan. I'm sure they're very proud of Wei-Yin, probably as much as we are."
Lew Ford, playing in his first major league game in five years, had his first outfield assist since May 16, 2007 at Cleveland.
"It was fun to see, not only Wei-Yin pitching, but seeing a guy go 0-for-3 and energize a game the way Lew did defensively," Showalter said.
"Lew, him coming into the clubhouse, everybody knew it was an exciting day for him to get back. Anytime you get a day game after a couple tough games, you like something that brings a little energy to the club. Of course, Wei-Yin did most of that."
Showalter also commented on Brian Roberts' decision to undergo hip surgery.
"I look at it as more of a positive, too," Showalter said. "Hats off to Brian, trying to get back and help this club. Talking to him a lot the last few days, how much it meant to him to come up here and try to help, and he was willing to do it anyway. I think after last night, he came to the point that he's going to set his sights on being ready to start the season and get 600 at-bats next year and help us.
"The good news is the concussion part of it seems to be something that's not on his mind anymore, so that's good. He'll go to Colorado and get it done, and he should be ready to go and be a big part of our club next year."