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Ryu Jae-kuk set to make KBO debut this weekend

Former Major League Baseball right-hander Ryu Jae-kuk is slated to make his debut in the top South Korean league this weekend, his current manager said Wednesday.

Ryu, who joined the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization in January, will make his first start this Sunday against the Kia Tigers, Twins manager Kim Ki-tae said. The game will be at Jamsil Stadium, the Twins’ home in Seoul.

The Twins recently demoted struggling starter Ben Jukich to the minors, hoping the lanky American will regroup after going just 1-3 with a 5.02 ERA in his first eight starts.

Ryu will fill the vacancy in the rotation.

Ryu first signed with the Chicago Cubs out of high school in 2001 and made his big league debut in 2006.

He spent the next two MLB seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays.

In the majors, Ryu appeared in 28 games, only one of them in a start, and was 1-3 with a 7.49 ERA in 39 2/3 innings.

Through a special draft for overseas-based Korean players held in 2007, the Twins acquired the rights to Ryu.

The 29-year-old returned to South Korea in 2010 but rather than signing with a KBO team, he began his mandatory military service. He was discharged in October 2012.

In five minor league starts in South Korea this year, Ryu went 1-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.

Ryu’s start on Sunday could be an interesting pitching matchup against his high school archrival.

The Tigers could send hard-throwing right-hander Kim Jin-woo to the mound on Sunday.

In the early 2000s, Kim, then pitching for Gwangju Jinheung High School, and Ryu, the ace for Duksoo High School in Seoul, were regarded as the two best pitching prospects in the country.

Throughout their junior and senior years, their schools traded national championships and Kim and Ryu took turns in winning MVPs and best pitcher awards. (Yonhap News)