The Chicago Cubs today announced that they have selected the contract of 22-year-old right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng and that he will start Thursday night’s game against the New York Mets. In a corresponding move, right-hander Pierce Johnson was designated for assignment.
It’s no secret that the Cubs bullpen has struggled lately, and the purpose of this move was to move Mike Montgomery back into a relief role to try to shore up that problem. The Cubs then needed a new starting pitcher, and Tseng got the call.
Earlier in the day, the Cubs named Tseng the Minor League Pitcher of the Year after a real bounceback season that saw him dominate at both Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. In fact, he was in Chicago to accept the award when manager Joe Maddon told him that he would be starting against the Mets.
The combined record for Tseng was 13-4 with a 2.54 ERA. He relies much more on his curveball and changeup than his fastball, which mostly sits in the upper 80s. But like Kyle Hendricks, a pitcher to whom he has been compared to in the past, Tseng relies on location, not walking batters and inducing weak contact.
Tseng will be the 14th Taiwanese-born player to play in the major leagues and the first for the Cubs. The Cubs signed Tseng as an international free agent in 2013 after he pitched in the World Baseball Classic for Chinese Taipei. He was previously named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2014 and he is the only person to have won that award twice.
Johnson was the Cubs compensation pick in the first round in 2012, the first draft of the Theo Epstein era. He moved full-time to the bullpen this season and he was 3-2 with nine saves and a 4.31 ERA in Iowa this summer. He also made his major league debut on May 19 when he pitched an inning in a loss against the Brewers. He gave up two unearned runs but also got two strikeouts.