Bruce Chen is back.
Well, in actuality, Chen has been back for a while now, being activated from the disabled list on June 24th and slotted into the bullpen. However, for at least one start, that Sweet Chen Music will play out of the starting rotation, taking the place of Jason Vargas, who is out for three to four weeks due to an appendectomy.
Aside from his first start to the season, 2014 has not been kind to Bruce Chen. He has posted a 1-2 record with a 7.11 ERA and a 1.697 WHiP. While Chen has struck out 26 batters in his 25.1 innings of work, he has also walked an uncharacteristically high ten hitters. For the first time since 2010, Chen is walking more than three batters per nine innings. As this comes just after a 2013 season that saw Chen produce a 9-4 record with a career best 3.27 ERA and a 1.182 WHiP, his performance has certainly disappointed.
For as much difference as there is between last year and this year for Chen, he actually finds himself in the same position he was in last year. After starting the season in the bullpen, Chen was inserted into the rotation in place of a thoroughly ineffective Luis Mendoza, helping to solidify the Royals rotation for the remainder of 2013. While Chen’s time in the rotation is likely to last until the moment that Vargas is ready to pitch again, he could well provide the same type of spark.
If nothing else, the Royals need Bruce Chen to be able to do just that. After losing three consecutive games to the Detroit Tigers, falling 7.5 games out of first place and being in danger of dropping to .500 at the All-Star Break, the Royals need the Chen from last year. They need a spark, someone to stop the bleeding and keep the Royals in position to make a second half surge like they went on last year. They need Bruce Chen to turn back the calender.
Bruce Chen was a major part of the Royals second half comeback last season. In the three or four starts he gets with Jason Vargas on the disabled list, hopefully Chen can recreate that magic.