Bruce Chen was making his way around the Royals clubhouse, shaking hands, exchanging hugs, saying good-bye.
Chen’s time as a Royal came to end Friday when he was designated for assignment. The Royals recalled right-handed pitcher Louis Coleman from Class AAA Omaha.
Chen’s last game was forgettable. He pitched the 10th inning of Thursday’s 11-5 loss to the Twins, surrendering six runs.
He had been used in long relief this season but sparingly since returning from a rehab assignment in late June. There had been a couple of blow-ups besides Thursday, when he fell to 2-4 with a 7.45 ERA.
“I’m glad I was able to help this team in any way that I could and I’m very proud of everything I did to be prepared and be ready for this team,” Chen said. “I’m just very grateful to this organization for everything.”
Coleman had split time with the Royals and Omaha this season. He was 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 28 games with the Storm Chasers, and 1-0 with a 7.48 ERA with the Royals.
The left-handed Chen had been a baseball survivor, pitching for 10 teams in his 16-year career. He spent more time and pitched more games with the Royals than any other team and was among the most popular figures in the clubhouse. He also served as the interpreter for Royals’ rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura.
“He was always there to uplift people,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “If you had a bad game, he’d be the first one who said you were going to get ’em tomorrow.
“He was the guys everybody looked to to lighten the mood. He’s going to be missed.”
Chen had one of his best seasons in 2013, when he moved from long relief to the rotation in July and went 6-4 with a 3.61 ERA as a starter as the Royals had their best season in two decades.
Chen owns an 82-80 career record and was 47-43 with the Royals since 2009. His last victory came on July 22 against the White Sox in Chicago. That game ended the team’s four-game post-All-Star break losing streak and started the Royals’ 26-9 run going into Friday’s game against the Indians that has vaulted them into first place in the American League Central Division.
It also allowed Chen to tie former Yankees star reliever Mariano Rivera for the most career victories by a player born in Panama. A Panamanian flag hung in his locker after the game.
“I’ve trained with him, and he’s a great baseball player,” Chen said of Rivera after that game. “I think he’s going to be very happy I was able to tie him.”