SPORTS

San Francisco Giants call up Korean Hwang Jae-gyun

By Alex Park
  • Published : Jun 28, 2017 - 10:53
  • Updated : Jun 28, 2017 - 16:06

South Korean minor leaguer Hwang Jae-gyun is headed to San Francisco to join the Giants, realizing his dream of playing in Major League Baseball, the big league club said Wednesday.

The Giants said they've purchased Hwang's contract from the Triple-A Sacramento, and manager Bruce Bochy said the South Korean will likely get the starting nod at third base against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park on Wednesday (local time), or early Thursday in South Korea.

Earlier in the day, an informed source told Yonhap News Agency that Hwang had received word of his promotion to the bigs.

Hwang, 29, joins three other South Koreans in the majors this year: Texas Rangers outfielder Choo Shin-soo, St. Louis Cardinals closer Oh Seung-hwan and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Kim Hyun-soo.

Hwang signed a split contract with the Giants in January, meaning the club would offer Hwang different salaries for the time spent in the majors and the minors. He had an opt out clause in his contract that would allow him to declare free agency if he wasn't called up by the Giants by July 1.

Earlier in the week, Hwang said in an interview with a South Korean portal website that he planned to exercise that contractual right and opt out of his deal unless the Giants brought him up. In that case, he could have tried to land with another major league club or return to the Korea Baseball Organization, where he'd spent the first 10 years of his pro career.

The Giants ruled out those possibilities, having decided to put him on their big league roster while placing another infielder, Conor Gillaspie, on the disabled list with a lower back injury.

Hwang had a productive spring training, leading the team with 15 RBIs while batting .333 with five home runs in 27 games. The third baseman, however, failed to make the 25-man Opening Day roster, and has been playing with the Triple-A Sacramento since then.

Hwang was batting .287 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs in 68 games with Sacramento. He has mostly split his time at third base and first base, and has made two starts in left field.

In this file photo taken on Jan. 25, 2017, South Korean baseball player Hwang Jae-gyun listens to a question from reporters at Incheon International Airport after signing with the San Francisco Giants. (Yonhap)
Hwang, who enjoyed an All-Star career in the KBO, had his best offensive season in 2016 with the Lotte Giants. He had a .335/.394/.570 line, with 27 home runs and 113 RBIs, all of them career highs, while swiping 25 bases and cutting down on strikeouts from 122 in 2015 to 66.

The San Francisco Giants had shown interest in Hwang in the past but didn't give him the full major league contract he'd desired.

Hwang appeared to have played his way into the big league lineup in spring training, but the Giants instead sent him to Triple-A and have kept him there since.

In the meantime, the Giants have called up other infielders like Gillaspie, Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones over the course of their disastrous 28-51 season. They're dead last in the National League West and have the second-worst record in baseball.

There's no guarantee Hwang will stick around in the majors or that he'll get a consistent chance to play. Regular third baseman Eduardo Nunez, who is on the 10-day DL with a hamstring injury, is due to return to action on Friday. Jones, who was only brought up last Saturday, has received just 10 at-bats in the big leagues and could get a longer look at third base.

Now that Hwang is on his way to the majors, his opt out clause is moot. (Yonhap)