We could see the writing on the wall back in 2008 at iconic Yankee Stadium when 19-year-old Taiwanese-born Che-Hsuan Lin came off the bench as a defensive replacement to play center field in the sixth inning of the Futures Game between his World team and host United States. Best known for flashing his lightening quick agility and speed, it made perfect sense for World Manager Tino Marinez to insert Lin to protect his slim 1-0 lead late in the contest. However, it was Che-Hsuan Lin’s bat that would break this game wide open for the visiting World team. Never considered a power-hitting threat, Lin drove the first pitch he saw in the seventh inning–a 94 mph fastball from Colorado Rockies righthander Ryan Mattheus–over the left field wall for a two-run home run. Che-Hsuan Lin would also hit a single in the ninth and later celebrate receiving the Larry Doby Award as the game’s Most Valuable Player in the World team’s 3-0 victory. This was deja vu as Lin’s heroics were prevalent back in 2000 when belting a grand-slam homer to catapult his Tai-Nan Chinese Taipei team to a twelve and under PONY Baseball Bronco League World Championship in Monterey, California.Ranked eight in the 2008 Boston Red Sox prospects list, Che-Hsuan Lin played for the Chinese Taipei baseball squad in the Olympics. Working his way up the ladder to the Major League level, Lin has been chosen as the Boston Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year(2008 & 2010) as well as the Eastern League’s Best Defensive Outfielder(2010). By leading all Eastern League outfielders with a .991 fielding percentage and ranking second with 15 assists entering the 2010 season, Baseball America rated Lin as being the Best Defensive Outfielder and having the Best Defensive Arm in Boston’s farm system. Most recently in the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series as a member of the Chinese Taipei national team, 23-year-old Che-Hsuan Lin once again demonstrated with his throwing arm that he is a force to be reckoned with in MLB’s future. MLB All-Stars outfielder Josh Reddick spoke candidly about his former Red Sox Minor League teammate, “He’s got the best arm I’ve ever seen.” Reddick elaborated, “The accuracy is not 100 percent there yet, but I’ve seen him make throws from the warning track to third on one hop and throw a guy out at second, so it’s pretty unreal to see what he can do.” Asked about Lin’s offensive ability, Reddick enthusiastically responded: “He’s also a great leadoff hitter, he can steal bases, he can hit for contact, so once he learns to develop a little bit of power, I think that’s the only step he needs. But he runs like a deer out in the outfield and is so smooth.” In the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series, Che-Hsuan Lin led the Chinese Taipei national team in hitting with a .417 batting average (5 for 12), including two doubles and two runs batted in. Bets are on that Lin and Reddick will soon reunite as teammates at Fenway Park in Boston…
It may be a case of divine intervention to help the young and talented Chinese Taipei national team after suffering three consecutive to Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Stars in the five-game 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series. Enter Taiwanese-born Fu-Te Ni–often referred to by Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) fans as “Tu Di Gong” or “Fu Teh Cheng Shen” because his given name is the same as the formal name for the Chinese God of the Land–taking the mound Saturday, November 5th at Kaohsiung’s Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium to the delight of mortal and deity beings everywhere and restoring balance in these seemingly lopsided exhibition games.
Having pitched for Chinese Taipei in the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic, the lefty Fu-Te Ni soon became a fan favorite in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. In 2009 Ni signed a minor league contract with the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate for the Detroit Tigers. It didn’t take long for Ni to be the first player to transition from the CPBL to MLB when he was called up by the Tigers in June 2009, becoming the sixth Taiwanese player to enter the big leagues.
Ni made his major league debut on June 29, 2009 in relief of Rick Porcello against the Oakland A’s. His first major league match up was no small feat as the once famous Moneyball all-star who got away, Jason Giambi stood sixty feet away. Ni would strike out the left-hand hitting slugger and two other batters in 1.2 innings of relief. Mixing a four-seam fastball with a change-up and slider, Fu-Te Ni kept the hitters off-balance. Offering no free passes to first base with precision pitch control, Ni threw 21 of his 27 pitches for strikes. Later Tigers manager Jim Leyland commented, “He’s not afraid. That’s what I like about him. He’s got a little hitch of giddy-up.” In his first season with Detroit, Fu-Te Ni put away some of MLB’s best including Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, Adam Jones and Aubrey Huff. Opponents batted just .187 against Ni, and he became a reliable left-hander out of the Tigers bullpen. Most impressive, however, was his American League relievers-leading 8.6 percent of inherited runners to score statistic(3-35).
In 2010 hitters began to take advantage of Ni’s troubles in hitting the low-end of the strike zone and locating the breaking ball against left-handed hitters, resulting in a catapulting .290 batting average against the left-hand throwing hurler. He struck out 22 batters over 23 innings, but also gave up 19 walks before being sent down to Triple-A Toledo. Although he had participated in the 2011 Tigers Spring Training Camp, Ni split his time as a starter and reliever in the International League, where he started 12 games and posted a 6-3 record with a 3.24 ERA. In 111 innings pitched, Ni struck out 93 and walked 34.
Equipped with renewed confidence and control of his pitches, Chinese Taipei’s Fu-Te Ni is ready to redeem himself in the eyes of the MLB skeptics in the Taiwan All-Stars Series. Of all the players on the MLB All-Stars roster, only the recently awarded 2011 Silver Slugger winner New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and 2011 Rawlings Gold Glove recipient Los Angeles Angels of Angels Shortstop Erick Aybar have faced Ni in Major League action. As a former 2009 Detroit Tigers teammate of MLB All-Star Curtis Granderson–who was crowned “American League Outstanding Player” in the 2011 Players Choice Awards and also recipient of a 2011 Silver Slugger Award, Fu-Te Ni held Cano hitless. In 2010 Aybar did not fare any better as he struck out in his only at bat against Ni. The writing is on the wall and in the sky for the Chinese God of the Land that “Tu Di Gong” is back with a vengeance to earn his Chinese Taipei national team their first victory against his fellow MLB All-Stars.
Late in the fifth inning of game two of the Taiwan All-Star Baseball Series at Taichung Intercontinental Stadium with his Chinese Taipei national team tied with the MLB All-Stars 2-2, Kuo-Hui Lo–a promising center fielder in Seattle Mariners farm system–singled and later stole second base off MLB relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. In his attempt to score from second base for Chinese Taipei on a single by fellow Taiwanese-born MLB minor leaguer Chun-Hsiu Chen–a budding catching prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, Lo slid awkwardly into home plate, catching his leg underneath his body. Unfortunately for Chinese Tapei, MLB All-Star rightfielder Josh Reddick threw a rocket home to catcher Ronny Paulino, who applied the tag on Lo for the third out to end the inning. It may have been a big break for the MLB All-Stars to stop the Chinese Tapei national team rally, but it was nothing compared to the injuries sustained to Kuo-Hui Lo, who during his unorthodox slide suffered multiple leg fractures and a severely dislocated ankle. He was taken off the field in a stretcher and rushed to the hospital for surgery assisted by a MLB physician. It is reported that Lo will be on the disabled list for at least three months. Not only would the Chinese Taipei national team lose one of its star players for the remainder of the exhibition series, but they would also end up losing its second consecutive game to the MLB All-Stars 5-3.
Prior to entering the Taiwan All-Star Series, Kuo-Hui Lo was playing for the Seattle Mariners AA affiliate, Southern League’s Jackson Generals in Tennessee, where he enjoyed playing day games based on his .533 batting average in five contests and overall earned what many would consider a comparably modest .335 on base percentage in 49 games. In April 2009 as a member of the single A High Desert Mavericks, Lo was voted Offensive Player of the Week in the California League when he blasted off 4 home runs in 5 games. Lo set the bar high in the California League all season long as he led all players overall in triples and slugging percentage. Kuo-Hui Lo’s fundamental level swing, quick wrists, and strong hips generate good bat speed and torque. The Seattle Mariners hope Lo can live up to their high expectations and make his way safely to the Major League dish barring any future injury…
Although rain would not only delay but cut game one of the five-game series between the Chinese Tapei National Baseball Team and the Major League Baseball(MLB) All-Stars short, the sold-out New Taipei City XinZhuang Stadium crowd’s spirits were not dampened and relished in the sheer excitement which brought together two distinctly different countries and cultures. After the United States and the Republic of China national anthems were played, the international delegation which included Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou was introduced.
President Ma threw out the ceremonial first pitch and welcomed the visiting MLB All-Stars to Taiwan. He encouraged friendly competition among the players and fans for the common love of the game. President Ma also presented a trophy to MLB Washington Nationals pitcher Chien-Ming Wang–wearing a Chinese Taipei uniform–for his invaluable contribution to the international sport of baseball. The anticipation of Wang taking the mound will have to simmer until this weekend when the Taiwanese-born superstar will be the starting pitcher for the Chinese Tapei squad and square up against his fellow MLB All-Stars at Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung.
With news today that the Washington Nationals and Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, have agreed in principle on a one-year deal, a three inning or 60 pitch limit for Wang will be strictly adhered to according to Taiwan national team manager Chen Wei-Cheng. MLB Network will televise the remaining scheduled Taiwan All-Star Series games on November 3rd & 4th at Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, and November 5th & 6th at Chengcing Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung. With the exception of a 2 pm(PST) start time on November 5th, first pitch is scheduled for 6 pm(PST) every night.