Royals starter Bruce Chen has been pitching in the majors since 1998 and he's been through just about everything. Before coming to Kansas City, he pitched for the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, Red Sox, Orioles and Rangers. He has also pitched for 14 minor league teams. He has been a starter. He has been a reliever. He's had injuries. He's had Tommy John surgery. He has been mediocre for the most part and sometimes he's just plain bad. He keeps finding a job though because everybody needs a left-handed pitcher.
It seems like every couple of years, the soft-tossing southpaw emerges to pitch a few good games. Desperate for a fifth or sixth starter, you add him to your fantasy team only to see him disappear for the next two years. Today, he decided that one of those strong games would be against the Tigers - six shutout innings, three hits, seven strikeouts. As it turned out, five Royals pitchers combined to beat the Tigers 3-1.
Good Start for Phil Coke
The one positive that came out of this game was Phil Coke pitching 6 2/3 innings in his first start of the year. He struggled in the second inning giving up two runs on two walks and two singles. However, Jim Leyland came out to the mound and talked to him for about 15 seconds. I don't know what the skipper said, but the Tigers left-hander proceeded to retire the next 13 batters. He allowed two runs on three hits and four walks and had seven strikeouts. It was an encouraging game from one of the Tigers bigger question marks.
The Kid from Worcester, MA
Another KC lefty - Tim Collins - caught my attention in the eighth. I did not know that the Royals had an undrafted 5-7 hurler with a funky delivery from Worcester, Massachusetts (which is not far from me). It's hard to root against someone like that, but I did anyway.
I was pleased to see the Tigers load the bases in the eighth against Collins thanks to two very tough at bats from pinch hitter Brennan Boesch (yes, he actually went to three and two and fouled off a bunch of pitches) and Will Rhymes. In years past, Tigers fans would have loved seeing Magglio Ordonez in this spot. Unfortunately, he hasn't really gotten untracked yet so so you could sense what was going to happen next. He popped up on the first pitch to end the inning.
Speaking about not getting untracked, last year's Rookie of the Year runner-up Austin Jackson is really having trouble in the early going. He is batting .176 with 13 strikeouts in 34 at bats. Not only that, but he looks totally over matched up at the plate. He struck out a lot last year, but hit the ball hard when he did make contact. This year, he's been hitting a lot of weak infield pops and shallow flies. They need his stellar center field defense, but one has to wonder how long he'll stay in the lead off spot if he continues to struggle.