Wang among five first-timers on Opening Day roster

Wang among five first-timers on Opening Day roster

PHOENIX -- Twenty percent of the players pegged for Milwaukee's 25-man roster will line up for their first Major League Opening Day, including Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang, who is poised to become the first Taiwanese-born player to appear in a game for the Brewers.

The four other first-timers are infielders Jeff Bianchi and Scooter Gennett and relievers Will Smith and Tyler Thornburg.

Wang is different from the rest. He is 21 years old, speaks Mandarin and has never thrown a pitch above Rookie ball. His leap to the big leagues is believed to be the most dramatic in the history of the Rule 5 Draft; Johan Santana and Joakim Soria each appeared at the Class A level before their move to the Majors.

"I think he pitched well enough to where Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee's GM] and his crew still think that this guy has got a chance down the road to be a pitcher that will make a difference on your staff," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's hard for me [to project] because the guy came from Rookie ball. ... I don't know how to judge down the line and say this guy is going to be a No. 3-4 starter. I don't know how to do that. So it'll be a learning experience for all of us."

Wang will be the 11th player and eighth pitcher born in Taiwan to play in the Majors, and the first for the Brewers.

Roenicke's previous Rule 5 Draft experience came when he was an Angels coach in 2000, and that team kept a hard-throwing reliever named Derrick Turnbow who would someday become the Brewers' closer.

"The difference was he didn't throw strikes. He had a great arm, but he didn't throw strikes," Roenicke said. "So this is a little different [with Wang], and it's also way different because of the language barrier. I don't feel like I can sit down and help this guy a lot, because I can't talk to him and look him in the eye and for me to see that he's getting it. Always when you go through an interpreter, there's something that's lost. That's the part I don't like. I really feel like I'm not going to contribute to this guy and his development simply because of the language barrier.

"He's going to have to just gain [knowledge] by experience and going out there and pitching. It's going to be interesting."

Bianchi, on the other hand, is the most veteran of the bunch, with one year and 57 days of Major League service but no Opening Days.

Bianchi essentially called his spot. When he met with Roenicke in February -- the manager held similar sit-downs with every player in camp -- Bianchi remembers saying something along the lines of, "I know there's basically only one spot available, and I'm hungry for that last spot. I'm going to do everything I can to win that spot."

He won it by batting .347 in the spring.

"It was relief, thankful, humbled, a little bit of everything," said Bianchi. "I worked hard in the offseason and this spring to get to this point, and I'm not going to take anything for granted."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.