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May 13, 2010 at 12:34 PM

Q&A with Che-Hsuan Lin

Blessed with a plus arm and exceptional range, Che-Hsuan Lin has already earned a reputation as an elite defensive center fielder, but has been working to polish off his offensive game over the last few seasons in the low minors. If he is able to improve in the area of making consistent hard contact, Lin projects as a top-of-the-order hitter as part of the next wave of Red Sox prospects set to hit the major league scene. Presently assigned to Portland, the 21-year-old is experiencing his first taste of Double-A baseball in 2010, his fourth season in the Red Sox system. I recently had a chance to sit down with Lin prior to a game against New Britain, and we discussed his thoughts on the different aspects of his baseball development. Thanks to Che-Hsuan for taking the time to chat and to Portland coach Mickey Jiang for translating.

Chris Mellen: After spending all of last season with Salem and now starting off the 2010 season with Portland, what has been the main difference that you have noticed in Double-A?
Che-Hsuan Lin: The pitching here at the Double-A level is much more advanced. They are much closer to the pitching that I faced in spring training during the big league games. These guys really attack hitters, where pitchers down a level tend to throw more fastballs in the middle of the plate. You have to be that much more focused and pay extra attention in the box.

CM: What have you tried to do so far to make the adjustment against the more advanced pitching?
The biggest adjustment has been with the mental part and trying to stick with your approach regardless of what happens around you. I’ve tried to be a little more aggressive when I am up at the plate and attack more pitches rather than sit back.

CM: You’ve been fortunate to represent your country in international tournaments like the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics. How have you brought those experiences into your development as a professional baseball player?
CL: There are so many outstanding baseball players in those tournaments, especially the World Baseball Classic; you just try to learn something from those elite players from all of the different countries. I like to watch them and see how they go about playing the game so I can try to bring something to my game - whether it is how to prepare offensively or to pick something up defensively to help me continue to grow as a player.

CM: What did you want to work on the most down in Fort Myers when you were in the big league camp?
I wanted to learn as much as I could from the major league players when I was fortunate enough to be in camp with them. Especially defense-wise, I was looking to pick up little things from players like [Mike] Cameron, [Jacoby] Ellsbury, and J.D. [Drew] that I could bring into the season to make myself that much better of a player. Maybe it is how they go after a fly ball or how they position themselves for a throw. I really just wanted to absorb as much as possible from those guys.

CM: So, you mentioned being around the big league guys and this spring you got a chance to shine in some of the spring training games. What is it like for you to get a chance to play in one of the major league spring training games as a minor leaguer trying to get to that level on a full-time basis?
CL: First, you really appreciate the chance the organization gives you to play in those games and show what you can do. I don’t want to show off in those games, but I want to do my best to help the team given the opportunity to play. It comes back to the learning experience that I talked about before, and you just want to grab onto anything during the time around those guys that will help you become a better baseball player, and hopefully get a chance someday to be getting ready there for a major league season.

CM: We get a chance to read different reports or write-ups on Che-Hsuan Lin, but what do you feel like is your best strength as a baseball player?
CL: My defense. Yes, I’d probably have to pick my defense and continuing to try to be a good defensive outfielder.

CM: Is that something that has always come natural to you, or is it something that you have had to hone over the years?
It’s always been something that has been more of instinct for me. There are aspects that you try to work on, but defense has always been a natural reaction for me — not necessarily something I can train for.

CM: Alright, I’m going to mention another strength that gets tossed around out there: plate discipline. What have you done to improve upon that aspect of your offense since entering the system in 2007 and playing with Lowell back in those days?
People like to mention plate discipline, but it isn’t something that I have put a lot of attention on in regards to discipline itself. Instead, I’ve tried to focus on seeing the ball well and trying to pick out those pitches that I can drive. If it isn’t that pitch, I’m going to let it go unless I have two strikes, and the big thing is to not try to do too much with the pitch. That’s pretty much the main thing that I have been working on in that area and always have been looking to improve since I first started playing with the Red Sox organization.

CM: You have had a chance to play with a lot of teammates since you signed with the Red Sox, but can you name one that has impressed you the most? What is it about them that sticks with you?
Ryan Kalish. We’ve been teammates the last couple of seasons. He’s been through a lot with his injury, trying to come back from it, and now we are on the same team again. He’s just a hard worker. No matter if it is the off-season or during the season, Ryan is the hardest worker that I have ever seen. I love playing with him and just the way he goes about playing is very inspiring.

CM: Talk about what it has been like to come to a new country, have to learn a new language and customs, all the while also playing baseball for a living.
CL: It’s taught me to be a lot more independent. I can’t just count on teammates, coaches, or the staff to help me get by. I have to get out and learn about all of the new experiences, especially trying to pick up the language. Before I came here, I had no idea about English, but since I’ve gotten to the United States I’ve been trying to learn English through talking with my teammates and coaches. I definitely want to work on that to become better with my communication in English. I feel like that is only going to put me in a better position to compete at a high level as a baseball player.