Last September, Jen-Ho Tseng was named Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He posted a 2.54 ERA and 1.135 WHIP in 24 starts split between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.
A day later, he was starting for the Cubs against the Mets. Clearly nervous, he hit a batter and allowed a couple of home runs before he was lifted after three innings. Two weeks later, he threw three good shutout innings against the Cardinals.
This year at Iowa, he’s been bad, no sugarcoating it, he’s been hit hard in all six of his starts.
Nevertheless, the Cubs are giving him a shot in the big leagues, taking the place of Yu Darvish tonight against the Marlins:
The Cubs signed Tseng out of Taiwan in July 2013 and gave him a $1.675 million signing bonus. He’s 23 and definitely has big-league talent; until this year he had moved steadily up the system. I saw him pitch in 2014 for Kane County, when it was a Cubs affiliate. Here’s the report I posted on that July 2014 game against Lansing, thrown when Tseng was only 19.
Best of luck to Tseng in tonight’s start. Presuming Darvish is healthy again and ready to make his next scheduled start (likely the makeup game Monday against the Braves), this will be a one-time start for Tseng. Or, if he shows well in this game, he could very well wind up starting one of the games in the split doubleheader May 19 at Cincinnati.
A bit of trivia: When Tseng takes the field tonight, he will become the first Cubs pitcher ever to wear uniform No. 1. As far as I know, only one pitcher in major-league history has worn No. 1: Matt Young, who wore it for part of the 1990 season with the Mariners. The Cubs pitcher with the lowest uniform number up to now is Tony Jacobs, who pitched in one game for the team in 1948 wearing No. 2.
Tseng wound up with No. 1, in fact, due to the Darvish signing. Drew Smyly, who is not expected to pitch until at least August, was assigned No. 11 when he was first signed. When Darvish came on board he was given No. 11, which he had worn his entire career (except with the Dodgers, where No. 11 was taken by Logan Forsythe when Darvish arrived). Smyly then was given No. 39, which Tseng had worn in 2017, so Tseng switched to No. 1, left vacant when coach Gary Jones left after 2017. The last Cubs player to wear No. 1 was Cody Ransom in 2013.