PORTLAND – They have recruited heavily in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, invested millions in Japanese pitchers and even taken a chance on a few Australians.

Now the Boston Red Sox are eyeing another land of opportunity: Taiwan.

Che-Hsuan Lin and Chih-Hsien Chiang are outfielders for the Portland Sea Dogs. They were recruited out of high school and signed for sizable bonuses, with Lin receiving $400,000 and Chiang $375,000.

Chiang, 22, is a solid left-handed hitter, although he is struggling early in the season.

Lin, 21, is considered one of Boston’s top prospects because of his defense. He was invited to major league spring training camp this year.

“He is unbelievable,” said Sea Dogs outfielder Ryan Kalish, who has played with Lin the past two years in Class A. “If it’s a nice, easy, routine ball, he makes it look so smooth.

“If someone is running on him, that’s when it’s fun. Then you get to see his arm, which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”

Sea Dogs fans have seen their share of defensive center fielders, from Jacoby Ellsbury to Jeremy Owens.

Owens played for Portland in 2003. He ran like a deer and got a great jump on the ball. But Owens struggled at the plate and eventually was released by the Red Sox.

We bring up Owens because Lin’s minor league average in three seasons is .255. But Lin gets the benefit of the doubt for a couple of reasons.

He is younger than most Double-A players, not turning 22 until September, and he had an on-base percentage of .355 last year.

Although he batted .265 in advanced Class A Salem last season, Lin began slowly because of minor elbow injury. After starting the season 8 for 58 with 19 strikeouts and five walks, he finished with a .283 average (119 for 420) with 61 walks and 56 strikeouts.

“When I came back (from the injury), everything went wrong,” Lin said through interpreter and Sea Dogs coach Mickey Jiang. “I worked with my hitting coaches to make everything easy — see the ball and swing the bat.

“I try not to focus on the result, only the process. That’s why I’m getting better.”

Lin batted .304 on the Sea Dogs’ season-opening trip, but dropped to .250 after an 0-for-5 home opener Friday at Hadlock Field. Still, Lin sees a lot of pitches, fouls off a bunch and has a .364 on-base percentage.

“He’s a good hitter. You’ll see,” Kalish said.

And Lin can run. After 59 stolen bases in the past two seasons, he is 3 for 3 this year.

Lin said he has worked with Bob Tewksbury, the former major leaguer who serves as Boston’s sports psychology coach, to keep his confidence up and his approach consistent.

If Lin keeps improving at the plate, with his gap-to-gap defensive coverage, he could join one of the few Taiwanese players to reach the majors.

Taiwan has its own professional baseball league, but Taiwanese players slowly have jumped to the majors. Chin-Feng Chen was a pioneer when he signed with the Dodgers in 1999 and played 19 games in the majors from 2002 to 2005.

The most famous Taiwanese player might be pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, whom Portland fans saw when he pitched for Trenton. Wang pitched for the Yankees from 2005 to last year and is now with the Washington Nationals, although on the disabled list.

While the Dodgers and Yankees are popular in Taiwan, Boston was Chiang’s favorite team. He gave no reason for his preference but when it came time to sign a professional contract, Chiang chose the Sox.

Originally a middle infielder, Chiang was moved to the outfield last year.

He played the past two seasons in advanced Class A, batting .284 with a total of 15 home runs 97 RBI.

Chiang is off to a 3-for-27 start with the Sea Dogs, but he will get chances to turn that around. The Red Sox want him to get lots of at-bats, so when he is not in the outfield, he will likely be Portland’s designated hitter.

 

THE SEA DOGS’ schedule has been adjusted with the rainouts on Friday and Saturday. Today’s scheduled game turns into a doubleheader, with two seven-inning games beginning at 1 p.m.

The Turn-Up The Clock promotion is still in place. In the first game, the Sea Dogs and Thunder will wear the uniforms of their respective major league affiliates — the Red Sox (Portland) and Yankees (Trenton).

And for those saving a spot on their refrigerator for a Sea Dogs magnetic schedule, which were supposed to be given out on Saturday, they will be distributed before Monday’s 6 p.m. game to the first 1,500 fans.

Friday’s rained out game has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Saturday, May 22, starting at 1 p.m.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]