ATLANTA — When Chin-Hui Tsao batted in the fifth inning Tuesday, it was his first plate appearance at any level of baseball in 12 years.
Naturally, he hit the first pitch he saw from Atlanta Braves pitcher Alex Wood to the warning track in right-center field. It bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double.
Could Tsao even remember the last time he batted?
“It was a long time ago,” he said. “Probably 2003.”
Sure enough, Tsao’s last plate appearance was Sept. 21, 2003 for the Colorado Rockies. His last hit was August 23 of that year, a single, and he hit a double five days before that. Those are the only three hits in his career, which consists of 16 plate appearances.
In the meantime, he’s pitched in every minor-league level from Single-A to Triple-A, and spent a year in Taiwan. He never grabbed a bat.
“They don’t hit” in the Taiwanese league, Tsao said. “They use a designated hitter.”
His well-documented comeback after five years away from the game had thus far focused on pitching. He said his only batting practice prior to Tuesday came during spring training this year with the Dodgers.
How did he look then?
“Just so-so,” Tsao said.
The gap of 11 years and 332 days between his hits is the fifth-longest since 1914, according to STATS, LLC. Tsao ranks behind only Joe Cicero (14 years, 338 days from 1930-1945), Ralph Winegarner (13, 36, 1936-49), Charlie Hough (13 years even, 1980-93) and Minnie Minoso (12, 94, 1964-76).