Hu returns to 51s, aims to solve problems at plate

Shortstop Chin-Lung Hu wears a necklace that’s designed to improve energy flow and oxygen levels. If only it could improve his hitting, the defensive whiz might still be with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After batting only .159 (17-for-107) in 49 games this season for the Dodgers, Hu was optioned back to the 51s on Tuesday.

He started at shortstop and batted second for the 51s on Wednesday night, going 0-for-3 with a walk and three groundouts, in Las Vegas’ 9-3 loss to Portland at Cashman Field.

“I’ve been struggling in the big leagues, so they want me to come here and play every day and get some at-bats,” said Hu, a career .299 hitter in the minors. “The pitchers are real good there, different than the minor leagues. (They have better) control and they throw hard.

“Right now, I need some more experience. I have to work on my hitting and my offense.”

Hu, in his sixth professional season, hit a combined .325 at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A Las Vegas last year — compiling 14 home runs, 40 doubles, 62 RBIs, 89 runs scored and 15 stolen bases — en route to being named the Dodgers’ Minor League Player of the Year.

The 5-foot-11-inch, 190-pound Hu, 24, was promoted to Los Angeles in September and hit .241 in 12 games, homering in his first at-bat at Dodger Stadium and second big league at-bat overall.

The baby-faced Hu would’ve probably started this season at Las Vegas, but injuries to Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche paved his way to L.A.

The versatile Hu, who also can play second base and third base, started at shortstop for the Dodgers when Rafael Furcal went down with an injury, but he was sent back to Las Vegas after Los Angeles signed shortstop Angel Berroa.

“He just didn’t get off to a good start up there,” 51s manager Lorenzo Bundy said. “He got a chance to play some with (Furcal) going down, but he just struggled offensively, so hopefully we can get him on track again and put him back on the map.

“He’s a good player. This will be good for him and make him a better player in the long run. He’s still part of the future of the Dodgers, there’s no doubt about it.”

Rated the Dodgers’ third-best prospect and the Most Valuable Player of last year’s All-Star Futures Game, Hu shared a locker in L.A. with his boyhood idol, Nomar Garciaparra, who became a mentor to the first Taiwanese-born big league infielder.

“Everybody’s dream is to go play in the big leagues, so to go there and play with guys like Nomar — that was my hero — was very interesting,” said Hu, who learned a lot and hit .176 in 61 games in the majors over parts of two seasons.

“I learned I can’t get too excited up there and try to do too much,” he said. “I think about it too much and swing at a lot of bad pitches. That’s my problem right there. I have to try to relax and have fun playing baseball.”

Hu had no problems playing defense in the majors, and Bundy said he has the potential to be a solid hitter at the highest level as well.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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