Chin-Feng Chen at a crossroad

Outfielder Chin-Feng Chen rarely talks about himself because he doesn't understand a lot of English. But he's getting better and an observer might think he would be using that newly-learned language to ask, "What's happening?"

The 27-year-old from Taiwan, has played three seasons in Las Vegas and holds the team's career home run record with 72.

But that may not be good.

"Is that a good thing to have? I don't know if I'd want to own any minor league records like that. That means you've been down here a long time," former 51s manager Terry Kennedy said. "But it's no slap at him. I think he is a major league prospect, at least he is for me. I don't think he's a fourth or fifth outfielder. This is a guy who's got to play."

At the age of 21, Chen was the Baby Blue William Schweppe Award winner in 1999 as a rookie at San Bernardino after he hit .316 with 161 hits over 131 games and 63 extra base hits (31 homers) to go with his 123 runs batted in.

He followed that with a .313 average at Jacksonville the second half of the 2001 season, whacking 17 dingers and knocking in 50 over 66 games. And in 2002 he became the first Taiwanese player to make a major league roster.

Chen has hit .284, .281 and .289 with 26, 26 and 20 homers over the past three seasons at Las Vegas, with 235 runs batted in while playing in 351 games, having his 2004 season cut short by his participation in the Olympic Games in Athens for his home country, Taiwan.

He hit a dazzling .579 during spring training in 2003 with five extra-base hits and 10 RBI in 13 games, then hit .333 in 2004 at Dodgertown in 13 games.

But with the changes in ownership, and the resulting changes in both major and minor league personnel, he has seemingly slipped between the clubs' cracks, going 0-for-14 in a dozen games in three brief call-ups, all telling numbers.

Fourteen games; 12 at bats -- certainly not an extended chance to win a spot on the roster. If someone believed in him, he might have been given a eight or nine-game stretch to get accustomed to major league pitching. However, he has only been used as a late-game defensive outfielder and a pinch-hitter.

He must catch someone's eye this time around because he is out of options, and if he doesn't make the Dodgers' roster next spring, another team will certainly claim him.