Sox have a Lin, too -- give him a chance

March, 3, 2012
3/03/12
8:57
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Darnell McDonald had this advice for Che-Hsuan Lin, the Red Sox rookie outfielder from Taiwan.

"I told him, 'Tell everybody that Jeremy is part of your family and you'll be OK,"' McDonald said. "I told him I want a 'Lin' Sox jersey, and I'm going to tell everybody they're cousins."

Jeremy Lin, the basketball guard who spawned Linsanity and is in Boston Sunday with the New York Knicks, and Che-Hsuan Lin, the 23-year-old outfielder who finished last season playing in Triple-A Pawtucket, are not related.

"In Taiwan,"' said Mickey Jiang, the member of the Sox minor league staff who cheerfully agreed to translate for Lin, "their last name is as common as Smith here. But Che-Hsuan knew his teammates would have fun with him about it."

But unlike the basketball player, who slipped under the radar until the Knicks in desperation gave him a chance, the Red Sox have tracked their Lin since he was in high school. (Jeremy was born in the United States, but his parents emigrated from Taiwan to the U.S. in the 1970s.) Che-Hsuan said he was a sophomore when Jon Deeble and Craig Shipley, who together scoured Asia for talent until Shipley abruptly left the club last winter, told them the Sox wanted to sign him when he graduated.

And while his bat has kept him from being at the top of Red Sox prospect lists -- SoxProspects.com has him ranked No. 27 in their latest rankings -- Lin's defensive skills have made him one of the most intriguing young players in camp. Especially since there are jobs to be won in the Sox outfield.

"He's an unbelievable outfielder," said McDonald, praising Lin even though he poses a threat to McDonald's spot on the roster. "I compare him to Franklin Gutierrez, the way he makes it look easy out there."

Gutierrez, who plays for the Seattle Mariners, is regarded as one of the best outfielders in baseball, but Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn't back away from the comparison.

"Lin," Valentine said, "throws better than Gutierrez. He's a very interesting player."

The more likely track for Lin is to begin the season in Pawtucket, where he finished last season and batted just .235 in 85 games. But it doesn't take much imagination to see Lin helping the Red Sox at some point this season.

Saturday, Lin played in both ends of Boston's doubleheader against college teams Northeastern and Boston College. He replaced Jacoby Ellsbury in the fourth inning of the Northeastern game and hit a full-count pitch for a home run. He later batted twice in the sixth inning, drawing a walk and hitting an RBI single.

He then started the second game, an indication that the Sox plan to take a good long look at Lin, at least early in camp. He took a called third strike in his only at-bat.

Lin has a good grasp of English, but for now prefers to conduct interviews through Jiang. He acknowledged that the adjustment for a teenage kid from Taiwan was not easy.

"Everything was new," he said through Jiang. "The language, the culture, the way you talk to coaches is so totally different from Taiwan. It took time."

"Even though he is an easygoing guy, he wanted to learn," Jiang said, "and he was aggressive about hanging out with his teammates."

Lin had an interesting take on why the number of Taiwanese players to play in the big leagues has been few, even though Taiwanese teams dominated in the Little League World Series for a time.

"From the time our baseball players are little," he said through Jiang, "they are dedicated to trying to win. It's not like here, fathers playing with their kids to enjoy. Here, you try to win but also try to enjoy. That's something we need to learn. We lose our fun playing baseball."

Lin never lost his desire, but he said he has learned to approach the game differently. "Ever since I signed," he told Jiang, "I've learned the mental game, that winning isn't the only thing, that I don't have to go 3-for-3 in every game, that it is OK to make a bad throw if you learn something.

"I'm not saying the Asian way is wrong, but I'm trying to enjoy the game."

Che-Hsuan Lin has known all about Jeremy even before this latest wave of Linsanity. In Taiwan, Jeremy received plenty of coverage even while he played at Harvard, and then last year when he was with Golden State.

Lin said he hasn't seen Jeremy Lin play much -- "I don't watch much sports on TV because I like to clear my mind," he said, but stressed that regardless of the shared name, there was plenty to learn from Jeremy's example. "Just the way he keeps working hard to make himself better," Lin said.

And if Che-Hsuan Lin was in Boston Sunday? "Yes," he said, "I'd go to watch Jeremy."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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