The Kansas City Royals awarded Bruce Chen with the Bruce Rice Pitcher Of The Year Award for 2011.
Bruce Chen was a floundering pitcher who seemed to have lost his way. The Royals felt that he had something left to offer and brought him to the organization in 2009. Now, with a youth movement brewing in Kansas City, Chen finds himself as a defacto leader of the pitching staff, and he is saying all the right things.
From the Royals Awards information: Chen, 34, was 12-8 with a career best 3.77 ERA in 25 starts, leading the club in victories for the second straight season. Last year’s Joe Burke Special Achievement Award winner was 8-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 14 starts against AL Central opponents. He closed the season by posting a 6-3 mark in hi final 10 starts with a 2.93 ERA and recorded a career long five-game winning streak from August 7-28. Chen became the first Royals southpaw to win 12 or more games in back-to-back season since Charlie Leibrandt (1985-88).
It is no secret that the Royals are young, in fact, they are the youngest team in Major League Baseball currently. That makes players like Chen, Jeff Francoeur and Joakim Soria all that more important to the franchise. But it is not a role that Chen takes lightly or feels he needs to actively pursue. During a conversation with i70 at the awards luncheon, Chen stated a desire to lead by example for the younger players and not force himself on them as a “leader” by title.
I like it (being the veteran)…these guys are young, full of energy, fun to be around…I feel like I’m a 27 or 25 year old pitcher. I don’t consider myself the leader, but I try to lead by example. It is an honor and a priveledge to be in the big leagues.
One of the keys to the Royals are the young players coming through the system. Chen stated that he is excited to play with guys like Wil Meyers, who he is not sure will arrive in Kansas City in 2012, and pitchers like Mike Montgomery. His true excitement lies with catcher Salvador Perez, however.
Perez is an exciting young catching prospect and Chen is excited to get to Arizona for Spring Training and start working with Perez. Developing that chemistry with his catcher is important to him as he knows he is not the easiest guy to catch.
It’s hard (working with a new catcher), you roll with the punches, you want to see who the guy is so you can develop chemistry. I’m not an easy guy to catch. I have like seven different pitches and I’m picky as to where I want them. Salvador is a very good catcher, defensively, throws guys out and blocks balls in the dirt.
With a variety of different pitches, Chen took some time to poke fun at his reputation as a breaking ball pitcher when he unveiled his work on a new pitch this off season.
I have my secret weapon, a new pitch for this year, it’s called a fastball. I plan to throw two or three a game. I still don’t have the hang of it.
Chen, who recently resigned with the Royals, thinks that returning to the organization was important to him personally. Not only does he believe that this organization took a chance on him when no one else would, making him feel some loyalty to the team, he also feels that there is “unfinished business” in Kansas City. “This town and fans want a championship”, and Chen feels that he is a vital part to this team being able to bring one home.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.