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New foreign pitchers off to mixed starts in KBO

New foreign pitchers in the Korea Baseball Organization are off to mixed starts in the 2013 season, with some showing promise for the future and others struggling to make a good first impression.

The KBO teams are each allowed to sign two foreign players. The NC Dinos, an expansion team playing in their first KBO season, have been granted an extra roster spot for a non-Korean player in a special exception, and all of their three foreigners are pitchers.

The eight other teams have used all of their quotas on pitchers for the second straight season.

Of the 19 imports, nine are returning from last season and nine are new to the KBO. One other pitcher, Chris Oxspring of the Lotte Giants, is back for a second tour of duty in the KBO, after pitching for the LG Twins from 2007 to 2009.

The Samsung Lions, the two-time defending champs, let go of Brian Gordon and Mitch Talbot, who combined for 25 wins last year, and acquired Rick van den Hurk and Aneury Rodriguez.

Both have yet to pitch for the Lions, however, as van den Hurk is dealing with shoulder pains and Rodriguez, ineffective in the preseason, has only appeared in minor league games.

Among the seven other new faces who have made an appearance, the three Dinos starters have shown some promise for the expansion club.

Adam Wilk, Charlie Shirek and Eric Hacker started in the first three games of the Dinos’ history this week. Though the team lost all three games against the Lotte Giants by the combined score of 12-3, you’d be hard pressed to blame the starting pitching for the defeats.

Wilk threw six scoreless innings and Shirek gave up just one run in seven innings. Hacker followed up by allowing three earned runs in seven innings, still a quality start.

Jo-Jo Reyes, a former big leaguer now with the SK Wyverns, was the opening day starter for his new team, and earned his first KBO win on Thursday in his second start, going seven innings and allowing three runs in the 7-5 win over the Doosan Bears.

The left-hander has struck out 12 in 14 1/3 innings so far and has looked dominant in the process ― so much that some scouts have openly wondered why Reyes is pitching in the KBO instead of the majors.

Garrett Olson, the lanky left-hander for the Doosan Bears, joined the team late in preseason and made his KBO debut last weekend in the team’s second game.

He allowed three runs in three innings, but manager Kim Jin-wook said he’s willing to be patient with his new acquisition.

“I think he was trying too hard to impress and he ended up leaving his pitches high in the zone,” Kim observed.

Not all foreign pitchers will be afforded such a luxury of time. The KBO teams have historically kept foreign players, pitchers or position players, on a short leash.

They invest a great amount of money in these players and often want immediate dividends. (Yonhap News)
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