Still without a hit, Chen batting righty

Still without a hit, Chen batting righty

MIAMI -- Batting from the left side didn't work out, so Wei-Yin Chen has decided to give hitting righty a shot. No, he's not becoming a switch-hitter. He's simply swapping sides.

Chen, the veteran left-handed pitcher who was the Marlins' Opening Day starter, batted righty on Thursday in Miami's 4-3 win over the Pirates in 12 innings. He showed some promise, even though he was hitless in three at-bats. 

Chen, who has 128 big league starts, is still seeking his first hit. He's 0-for-28 lifetime and 0-for-22 this season.

"When I started playing baseball, I hit right-handed," Chen said in English.

When Chen was 15 years old, a coach recommended batting from the left side to protect his throwing arm in case he was hit by a pitch. Chen has done that, without much success, no matter where he has played.

The Taiwanese native pitched five seasons over a seven-year span in Japan, collecting 15 hits in 178 at-bats. His career slash line in Japan was .084/.099/.096.

Now in the National League, where pitchers hit, Chen was told by his teammates that if he can help himself with the bat, it will be beneficial. So when the Marlins visited the Rays in late May, Chen took some swings in the cages from the right side. His fellow starters were watching.

"Everybody was saying, 'He can swing,'" Chen said.

"They brought me in the cage in Tampa," manager Don Mattingly said. "They showed me. He looked way better. They told me he was right-handed, and somebody changed him left-handed."

Chen had better at-bats on Thursday, and nearly collected his first hit, but he was robbed by a nice play by first baseman David Freese.

Freese's diving stop

"You don't necessarily count on the pitchers to do a lot of hitting, but you do at least want them to be able to defend themselves up there," Mattingly said. "If you can't put the ball in play at all, then you're not going to be able to get bunts down because they're going to be all over you."

Chen tried out hitting right-handed in batting practice earlier in the week, and he unveiled it in the game. He did say that he has more power hitting left-handed, and he still plans, in obvious bunting situations, to do it from the left side.

It's not just Chen who has struggled at the plate for Miami. Collectively, their pitchers are batting .078 (8-for-102) entering Friday.

"Our guys are starting to put the ball in play, and that's what we want them to do," Mattingly said. "If he grew up in the National League, he would have been hitting all the way through."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.