Korean-born players start season poorlyThe 2006 major league baseball season got under way last Saturday as the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox defeated its American League Central Division rival Cleveland Indians 10-4.
Five Korean-born players played in the majors full time last season, but only four will be on the roster this year, with one starting the season in the minor league.
In addition, only two of the four players entered the season completely healthy.
Suffice to say, not everyone is having the kind of start that they would have liked, not the least of whom is Choi Hee-seop, the first Korean position player in the majors.
Choi was placed on waiver by the Los Angeles Dodgers last month, and the Boston Red Sox picked him up as their backup first baseman. After a poor showing during spring training, Choi was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury on Saturday. When he recovers, he will begin the season at the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket.
Choi has had a disappointing offseason, which included dealing with his uncertain future with the Dodgers when the team signed former All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and converted him to first baseman, and a subpar performance at the World Baseball Classic, where he batted .182.
All four Korean pitchers are playing in the National League West Division this season. The Colorado Rockies have two of them, Kim Byung-hyun and Kim Sun-woo, but only one of the Kims will start the season healthy.
Byung-hyun is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring, stunting his fight for a spot in the team's starting rotation. His misfortunes initially opened the door for Sun-woo to grab that elusive fifth starting spot, but he too has hurt his hamstring, and is expected to begin the season as a middle reliever.
But once healthy, Sun-woo, who went 5-1 in 12 games for the Rockies last year with one shutout and a 4.22 earned run average after coming over from the Washington Nationals, could again start challenging for a place in the rotation.
The defending division champ, San Diego Padres, added some pitching depth in the offseason, and manager Bruch Bochy has said he will employ a four-man rotation of Jake Peavy, Shawn Estes, Chris Young and Dewon Brazelton for the time being; not great news for right hander Park Chan-ho.
Brazelton's surprising spring training has planted the 25-year-old right hander in the rotation, pushing Park, who moved back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen after a midseason trade from the Texas Rangers last year, back to the bullpen.
For his part, Park starred as a closer during the World Baseball Classic, picking up three saves in three games without allowing in a run. His recent back injuries have taken some velocity off his once-imposing fastball, but Park's mixing of offspeed pitches, as well as much improved fastballs that clocked in at low-90 miles per hour, during the March tournament provided an encouraging glimpse into his immediate future.
The one Korean major leaguer who begins the new season with a positive, not to mentioned settled, outlook is right-handed starter Seo Jae-weong of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Acquired in an offseason trade from the New York Mets, Seo had a solid World Baseball Classic, and the Dodgers will use him as their fifth starter, behind Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez and Brett Tomko.
Given the injury-prone history of those pitchers, Seo will likely be counted on providing the same effective pitching that he did for the Mets last year.
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.
by Yoo Jee-ho