Rookie Wei-Yin Chen has become the Orioles' workhorse

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen throws to a Baltimore Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen throws to a New York Yankees batter during the second inning of a baseball game in Baltimore. (Sept. 7, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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BALTIMORE -- When it came to his starting rotation, Orioles manager Buck Showalter found himself in a constant state of crisis. Sometimes injuries forced improvisation. Other times the culprit was ineffectiveness.

Either way, by the end of his team's improbable 93-win regular season, Showalter had given the ball to a dozen different starting pitchers. But only one emerged as a constant.

In Wei-Yin Chen, the 27-year-old Taiwanese lefty signed out of Japan, the Orioles discovered their only true rotation stalwart.

"I'm from Taiwan, I pitched in Japan and I'm a rookie here,'' Chen, who will start ALDS Game 2 against Andy Pettitte Monday night, said through an interpreter. "And I never thought of pitching in a postseason, and this is really a big dream for me. I have to give credit to my teammates. They were all behind me and support me. They are the best.''

Those teammates also can thank Chen, who answered the bell for 32 starts and 192 2/3 innings, both of them team highs. In his first big-league season, Chen finished 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA, all while taking on the role of staff workhorse.

Chen finished the season as the only Orioles starting pitcher to make more than 20 starts and to approach 200 innings, yet another reason the team's run to the postseason was so surprising. Indeed, while others on the staff outperformed him, none could match Chen's durability.

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The innings load appeared to catch up with him late in the season. Even with the Orioles working extra rest days into his schedule, he went 0-4 with a 5.05 ERA in September. But on the eve of his first postseason assignment, Chen said he isn't concerned about that.

"This is one shot and an opportunity, so I don't think the extra days or anything will confuse me or anything,'' he said. "I just want to do my job and do my part and give everything out there and just pitch the ball.''

When he took the job, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette stressed the Orioles' desire to bring in international talent. The first wave included Chen, who signed a three-year deal worth nearly $12 million after posting a 2.68 ERA in 1642/3 innings last season with the Chunichi Dragons.

Chen made his major-league debut against the Yankees on April 10, which made Derek Jeter the first big-leaguer he ever faced -- and Jeter welcomed him to the majors with a home run. In four starts against the Yankees, Chen went 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA.

In those starts, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson also homered off Chen. Nevertheless, he believes he's working with a clean slate in the playoffs.

"I think this is different right now because this is the postseason,'' Chen said. "Everything will be new and everybody will have a new start. We'll see what's going on tomorrow.''

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