[BASEBALL]MLB players facing uncertain off-season

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[BASEBALL]MLB players facing uncertain off-season


In the 2005 Major League Baseball season, five Koreans played full-time in the big league. Prior to the new season, however, the status of those players with their respective teams is about as up-and-down as their 2005 performances. We took a brief look at where each of the players stands with his current team, and what kind of role each will assume in the upcoming season.

Park Chan-ho,
Pitcher, San Diego Padres
Following a mid-season trade from the Texas Rangers, Park started nine games for the Padres in 2005 and, with one relief appearance, went 4-3 with an earned run average of 5.91. He was not on the Padres’ playoff roster in October.
In 2006, Park is likely to return to the starting rotation, behind Jake Peavy, former Rangers teammate and good friend Chris Young, and Woody Williams.
The key for Park is to stay healthy. The injury bug over the last few years has sapped his 15-win-a-year potential, and when he came back last year to pitch in more than 30 games for the first time since 2001, he had lost much of his momentum.
His modest success, winning 12 games overall, came from him moving his fastball. If he can maintain that, Park could post double digit wins, especially in the cavernous, pitcher-friendly PETCO Park.

Kim Byung-hyun,
Pitcher, Colorado Rockies
Kim began the new year with his free agent status with the Rockies in limbo. The team has until Jan. 8 to re-sign him or it will lose negotiating rights until May 1, during which period he can pursue other teams.
Although he is reportedly leaning toward signing Colorado’s $1.5 million per year offer, Kim has yet to secure a U.S. visa to meet face-to-face with the team management in Denver.
Earlier in the off-season, the team seemed intent on meeting Kim in person, but manager Clint Hurdle told The Denver Post last week that the signing could be done by conference call.
If he does re-sign, Kim is expected to be the team’s No. 4 starter behind Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis. In 40 games for the Rockies (22 of them starts), Kim went 5-12 with 4.86 ERA.

Kim Sun-woo,
Pitcher, Colorado Rockies
The other Kim on the Rockies joined Byung-hyun in a mid-season trade from the Washington Nationals ― he was in manager Frank Robinson’s doghouse there ― and was excellent down the stretch for his new team. The 28-year-old went 5-1 in 12 games for the Rockies with one shutout and a 4.22 ERA.
Assuming Byung-hyun returns, Sun-woo will battle for the fifth starting spot with former Washington teammate Zach Day. But Kim was the best Colorado starter in September, and that should bode well for the six-year major league veteran who goes by the nickname Sunny in the United States.


Seo Jae-weong,
Pitcher, New York Mets
Seo spent time in the minors last season because of a logjam in the Mets rotation, but after his call-up in August, Seo went 6-1 with a strong 2.74 ERA, pitching himself into the starting rotation.
Entering the 2006 season, though, Seo is dealing with as much uncertainty as he did last year. The New York Daily News reported last Saturday that the Mets are in talks with other clubs to trade Seo and fellow pitchers Kris Benson and Aaron Heilman in a complicated four-way deal that will ultimately see Seo join the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
It would be a devastating career move for Seo to play for the perennial underachievers in Tampa instead of the Mets, which are loaded in offense after acquiring slugger Carlos Delgado to complement the likes of David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd.
Seo won’t get that kind of run support on many other teams.

Choi Hee-seop,
First baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers
With the Dodgers having brought in three new starting infielders, Choi appears to have lost his starting job at first base. New shortstop Rafael Furcal will likely push incumbent Cesar Izturis to second, from which slow-footed Jeff Kent will move to first.
Although Izturis won’t return from his elbow surgery until summer, former All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who joined the team last month, will begin the season at first base, leaving Choi as the odd man out in the infield.
Because manager Jim Tracy, who was reluctant to start left-handed Choi against southpaw pitching, stepped down after the 2005 season, Choi was expected to become a full-time starter in 2006 before a series of moves by the Dodgers.
Although he did agree to a one-year deal for $725,000 to stay with the team, a change of scenery seems to be the best option for Choi’s future as a major leaguer.

by Yoo Jee-ho
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