In February 2016, American-born pitcher Bruce Billings signed a professional contract with the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions of the CPBL in Taiwan. In the Chinese Professional Baseball League, each of the teams is allowed to sign a maximum of three foreign-born players. Billings will be joining outfielder Felix Pie (Dominican Republic) and pitcher Jair Jurrjens (Netherlands) on the Lions squad that has started the season 2-0. The 30-year-old right-hander is hoping to have as much success in his debut as Pie and Jurrjens had in theirs.
Jurrjens blanked the Chinatrust Brothers on Sunday through six innings and came away with an impressive win in the season opener (recap here). Pie played hero last night in the Lions’ come-from-behind victory with his first home run in the eighth and then the walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th (recap here).
Billings, originally drafted by Colorado in the 30th round of the 2007 draft, has had a couple tastes of the MLB with brief appearances for the Rockies, Athletics and Yankees. He has only thrown 11 total innings in the MLB but it is his minor league track record that is most impressive.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Billings has compiled a massive 1,030 innings pitched with a 4.03 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in his nine-year minor league career, winning 73 games along the way while striking out 943 batters. That’s good for an 8.23 K/9.
With Jurrjens’ ability to create weak contact and Billings’ ability to make batters miss, the Lions might have a solid front-end of their rotation. They’ll lean on this to surprise the league this year and improve on their last place finish from a year ago.
The Lions will take on the defending-champion Lamigo Monkeys (0-2) at Xinzhuang stadium tonight at 6:35. Opposing Billings on the mound will be Australian-born Ryan Searle, who will also be making his CPBL debut.
The forecast looks wet and cold with temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius at game time.
Update: Bruce Billings' debut has been postponed.