Twins Harbor Hopes For Taiwanese Pitching Imports





MINNEAPOLIS—It's not particularly unusual for the Twins to sign a couple of pitchers who grew up within 20 miles of each other. But when those hometowns are 7,500 miles from Minneapolis, that's much more unusual.

Such is the case with Taiwanese righthanders Hung-Yi Chen, a native of Taichung, and Kua-Hua Lo, from nearby Kaohsiung. The teenagers will begin their first full season together in minor league camp in March. International scout Cary Broder, who lives in Taiwan, signed both a year apart.

"Taiwan is a little more scout-friendly, sign-friendly, than Japan or (South) Korea, but the players are just as advanced," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "We have a lot of belief in these guys' ability."

Chen, 19, signed in 2010 and spent last season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The 18-year-old Lo agreed to a contract last summer, and the Twins sent him to Australia to gain experience before bringing him to the U.S. for instructional league.

In their brief auditions, the Twins like what they've seen.

"Lo is a little bigger, throws a little harder. He's already (throwing) in the (low) 90s," Radcliff said.

"Chen is a little more advanced in his ability to throw strikes. He has a compact delivery, and he's down in the zone with everything. We believe he'll be a 90-miles-per-hour guy as he grows."

Chen already throws four pitches, including an effective changeup. He started strong in the GCL, allowing just four runs in his first 22 innings for a 1.64 ERA. But the heat of all those Florida day games took its toll on the teenager. Chen wilted in the August heat of Fort Myers, Fla., allowing 13 earned runs over his last 13 innings.

"His numbers ended up taking a hit, but he showed us he can pitch," Radcliff said.

TWIN KILLINGS

• The Twins released a trio of righthanders, Venezuelans Cesar Ciurcina and Pedro Guerra and Australian Todd Van Steensel. Each opened the 2011 season at Rookie-level Elizabethton.

• Minnesota will hold five of the top 75 picks in the 2012 draft, including No. 2 overall, thanks to free agent compensation picks from the Rockies (for Michael Cuddyer) and Diamondbacks (for Jason Kubel). They had six of the first 75 picks in 2004, but have only Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins, Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Swarzak to show for it.