Park’s troubles may not all be physical

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Park’s troubles may not all be physical

On Saturday, Park Chan-ho, who pitches for the Texas Rangers, wrote a message to his fans on his Web site (chanhopark61.korea.com) that said he is doing his best to regain his status as a winning pitcher. After an extensive physical exam recently, no serious injuries were found. Even so, Park is expected to remain on the disabled list.
Earlier this year, I wrote that Park would have a great year, provided he gets back his fastball and control. Little did I know that Park’s performance would slip well under my 17-win prediction.
Right now Park’s teammates have lost faith in him and the Texas media are ripping him. Enraged fans suggested that bringing back Nolan Ryan, once a Ranger pitching superstar who retired in 1993, would probably help the team much more than letting Park throw away games.
Park’s last attempt to regain the trust and confidence of teammates and fans failed miserably when he left a game on June 7 after throwing two innings against the Montreal Expos. He complained of stiffness and soreness in his right rib cage area. Before he departed that game he had given up two home runs and four runs. He is 1-3, with a 7.58 ERA.
Recently, Park revealed in an interview that for the past three years he has never thrown without some pain.
There is speculation that Park pitched the 2001 season, his last for L.A., with injuries because he needed to land a big free agent contract. The Rangers offered him that deal, but Park, who never went on the disabled list during his eight years with the Dodgers, went on the DL twice last last year with Texas while going 9-8.
So what kind of options do the Rangers have at this point? Because Texas is at the bottom of the American League West division with a 27-39 record, it’s safe to say that their season is pretty much over. To rebuild, the Rangers could try to trade Park, but it’s doubtful any team would be willing to pick up his hefty salary. With abundant firepower in their offense, the Rangers could try to make a multiple trade, sending away someone like the aging Rafael Palmeiro, along with Park, to a team that badly needs a lift but can spare some pitching.
But I wonder if there is a team that believes in Park enough to bank on him having a successful rehab.
Another option would be for Texas to keep Park, betting that he gets back on track. Not counting this season, Park has three more seasons left on his five-year, $65 million contract, which means that if the Rangers are willing to invest at least a year to bring him along slowly they will get at least two good seasons from Park -- provided everything works out. Park’s former teammate with the Dodgers, Kevin Brown, who had a 3-4 record last season with a 4.81 ERA, was twice placed on the disabled list. After a successful rehab, this year Brown has a sparkling 9-1 record with a 2.00 ERA.
I believe Park is injured, but I also think the mental part of his game is suffering. With a fat contract, Park likely feels that he has to throw, even if his condition is not 100 percent.
At age 30, Park has three to four good years left. If he can heal physically -- and mentally -- he can still be the star the Rangers signed.


by Brian Lee
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