News conferences to introduce backup middle infielders are not the norm, but the Mets held such an event Wednesday at Citi Field. Of course, there was cultural significance, too.
Chin-lung Hu, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Dec. 27 for minor league left-hander Mike Antonini, is one of only six Taiwan-born players to have played in the major leagues. The others: Chin-Feng Chen, Hong-Chih Kuo, Fu-Te Ni, Chin-hui Tsao and Chien-Ming Wang.
Assuming he beats out Luis Hernandez for the backup middle infield role, which is the expectation, Hu will become the first player born in Taiwan to represent the Mets.
Still, general manager Sandy Alderson noted while introducing Hu that the decision to acquire the middle infielder first and foremost was a baseball decision.
"I didn't want Chin-lung to think he had been brought in here for reasons other than his own ability and our sense that he could contribute to the team," Alderson said. "I think it's great that he represents a significant part of the community here. I certainly would not say that had absolutely no impact whatsoever.
"But ultimately this was a baseball decision. I just wanted him to know that. And I think it was important for him to know that. I don't want to downplay the importance of diversity and the various constituencies and communities we have in New York."
Among the dignitaries on hand for the news conference were New York City councilman Peter Koo and New York State assemblymember Grace Meng, both of Flushing.
Hu, who turns 27 on Feb. 2, is a career .191 hitter with two homers and 17 RBIs in 173 at-bats over four seasons in the majors. He already knows his new manager, since Terry Collins ran the Dodgers' minor league system before heading to Japan to manage.
"He's a great coach. Everybody's scared of him a little bit," Hu said, half-seriously. "He helped us a lot, actually."
Asked to elaborate on Dodgers' minor leaguers being scared of Collins, Hu added: "He's a disciplinarian. But he's good."
Alderson can envision Hu spelling Jose Reyes at shortstop. He potentially could be a late-inning replacement at second base if an offense-oriented player emerges as the starter.
"He provides a nice set of capabilities for us," Alderson said. "One, he can back up at shortstop, maybe give Jose a day off occasionally. We think he can play second base very well additionally -- maybe late-inning defense given what we have at second base and who's competing for that starting role. He'll be able to move around. He can run a little bit, and offensively maybe give us a little pop.
"We're pleased to have him as an overall quality utility player and we'll see where it goes. You hate to pigeonhole someone. We think he's going to be a nice addition for us."