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Cubs' Tseng excellent again for Cougars

Taiwanese teenager flashing talents to take fast track to Majors
July 18, 2014

Jen-Ho Tseng is 19 years old and has only made a baker's dozen appearances at Class A. That's not stopping some in the Cubs organization from thinking he could be in Chicago by 2016.

"I feel that he's looking like a guy that might be able to reach the big leagues at a young age," Kane County pitching coach David Rosario said. "I won't be surprised if he's in the big leagues at the age of 21, 22."

The Taiwanese teenager backed up his coach's confidence Friday night, allowing one hit over six scoreless innings as the Cougars thumped Lansing, 10-1.

Tseng (5-0) limited the Lugnuts to a single and a walk while striking out three. The right-hander has made 13 Midwest League appearances, including 12 starts, compiling a 2.50 ERA with 64 strikeouts and nine walks in 62 1/3 innings.

"He's a young kid that has a great [temperament]. He competes really well," Rosario said. "In today's game, he was able to pound the zone down and work in and out with his fastball and combine that with his changeup extremely well. He was able to execute some really good sequences."

Tseng's fastball usually sits around 91-92 mph, touching 94 at times. His second-best pitch is a breaking ball and he can also throw a changeup for strikes.

Tseng and Rosario game-planned for the righty to lean on the fastball and changeup the first time through the order on Friday, knowing that Lansing is an aggressive, fastball-seeking team. While the strategy called for Tseng to go to his putaway breaking ball later in the game, the fastball-changeup combo proved so effective, the teen rarely went to the bender.

"He did so well, we just stayed with it and was able to pitch through with it," Rosario said. "He has an extremely good breaking ball, he just didn't need it today. He was just trying to go through the order the first time without showing all his pitches, but the results were so good, he stayed with it."

Tseng burst on the scene a few years back while pitching for the Chinese Taipei National team. In 2012, he dominated at the 18-Under World Championships, posting a 0.84 ERA with 22 strikeouts and two walks over 21 1/3 innings.

He also represented Chinese Taipei at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, compiling a 9.00 ERA in two appearances. His velocity -- peaking at 95 mph in previous outings -- was down, and reports followed that his stock as a Major League prospect had taken a hit.

Unfazed, Cubs signed him for a reported $1.625 million last July. And almost exactly a year later, it's looking like a sound investment.

The organization has been cautious with the 19-year-old, giving him about a month off in May after he struggled to get comfortable in unusually cold temperatures.

Aside from the early hiccup, Tseng has maintained his stuff and velocity well. He threw about 65 pitches on Friday but would've gone longer if Cubs right-hander Kyuji Fukikawa wasn't with Kane County on a rehab assignment -- the Japanese reliever allowed an unearned run while fanning two batters in the seventh.

Beyond his on-field work, Tseng has impressed the Cubs with his stateside adjustment.

"Especially with him coming from overseas, he's been really good," Rosario said. "He's learning English real quick from Spring Training to today. He loves communicating with his teammates."

As for the on-field stuff, Rosario thinks Tseng needs to improve reading hitters and sharpening his command but considers him advanced in just about all stages, considering his age. Rosario said that's at least a partial credit to his international experience.

"I really believe that has something to do with it, being able to pitch with the national team in Taiwan," Rosario said. "He's pitched in front of big crowds and against high-level players. That's helped his development. Now he's coming to this level, he's able to handle it well."

Cael Brockmeyer -- Tseng's batterymate -- had three hits, including his fourth homer, and four RBIs, while Shawon Dunston went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs for the Cougars.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.