No Really, Chin-hui Tsao May Be Back

Man, and we thought Chad Billingsley was a blast from the past when he started against the Dodgers last night. At least it had only been two seasons since he’d been with the Dodgers, and that’s nothing compared to Chin-hui Tsao, who is reportedly going to be recalled today. Tsao last appeared for a game with the Dodgers in 2007 — not a typo! — and when he signed a minor league deal in March, I looked into just how far he’d come:

When I wrote about the projected 25-man Opening Day roster last week, the final bullpen spot was a “who knows,” full of Sergio Santos and David Aardsma and Pedro Baez and a dozen other guys. Not included on that list: Chin-hui Tsao, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2007 (for a Dodger team that included names like David Wells, Rudy Seanez, D.J. Houlton, Jason Schmidt, and Mark Hendrickson) and has barely pitched at all since due to a game-fixing scandal in his native Taiwan. When he signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers, he didn’t even get an invite to major league camp, which nearly all players who have major league experience do. That’s how far off the radar he was.

Tsao somehow only turned 34 last month, but it still feels like he’s been around forever. Check out the Colorado lineup he took the field with for his big league debut on July 25, 2003:

Tony Womack SS
Ronnie Belliard 2B
Todd Helton 1B
Preston Wilson CF
Larry Walker RF
Jay Payton LF
Chris Stynes 3B
Charles Johnson C
Chin-hui Tsao P

(The managers in that game: Ned Yost & Clint Hurdle. You probably could have made a lot of money betting against the idea that they’d be very successful managers — or employed managers — 12 years later.)

Here’s the Grady Little-led (!) Dodger lineup as it looked for Tsao’s LA debut on April 18, 2007:

Rafael Furcal SS
Juan Pierre CF
Nomar Garciaparra 1B
Mike Lieberthal C
Andre Ethier RF
Brady Clark LF
Wilson Betemit 3B
Ramon Martinez 2B
Derek Lowe P

Rudy Seanez and Olmedo Saenz also appeared in that game. Man, Ethier really has been around forever himself.

Tsao made his final appearance on July 14 of that year, got into seven games for Kansas City’s Triple-A team in 2008, and hasn’t been seen since. In 30.2 innings across two levels this year, he’s got a 39/9 K/BB, which seems nice, but damned if I’m scouting the stat line — this guy basically predates PITCHf/x.

Ian Thomas probably gets kicked back to Triple-A to open a spot on the roster, but because Tsao isn’t on the 40-man, another move would need to be made, and it’d likely be a DFA, because the only players on the 15-day DL are Carlos Frias and Chris Hatcher, neither likely 60-day candidates. It’ll probably be someone you didn’t even realize was on the 40-man, like Andy Wilkins or Ronald Torreyes, and you’ll go “huh, he existed, I guess.”

That might be how you should view Tsao, anyway, and I’m sure too many fans will just see “4.40 ERA in the minors!” and freak out. I’m not saying he’s necessarily going to be good or useful or valuable, and he’s not a fix for recent issues so much as he is a fresh arm for a bullpen that needs one. He sure is interesting, though. Right now, I’ll take interesting.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.