A pair of Koreans are holding on to postseason dreamsThe second half of the Major League Baseball season is well underway, and two Korean players have a shot at a postseason appearance this year.
Park Chan-ho, the elder statesman of the four Koreans on major league rosters, is pitching for the National League West-leading San Diego Padres. Through Sunday, the defending West champs held a 1.5-game edge over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Among Koreans, Park has the best shot at reaching the playoffs: Seo Jae-weong is pitching for the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays, which have the second-worst record in the American League; Kim Byung-hyun’s Colorado Rockies are sitting at 50-54, four and a half games behind the Padres. And outfielder Choo Shin-soo, the only Korean position player in the majors, last week was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the rebuilding Cleveland Indians, which were 24.5 games out of first place in the AL Central as of Sunday.
While his team keeps rolling, Park suffered a setback. On Sunday, the Padres placed Park on the 15-day disabled list with abdominal pain. He underwent tests over the weekend, and according to the team’s Web site, the results showed that Park is anemic. Last week, he complained of a depletion of energy, and returned to San Diego in the middle of the team’s road trip.
So far this season, Park has a 7-6 record with a 4.63 earned run average in 21 games, 19 as a starter. His 126 1/3 innings are the most on the Padres.
Meanwhile, Kim, of the Rockies, continues to ride a roller coaster of a season, much like his team.
Take his last two starts. Against the Diamondbacks on July 23, Kim was rocked for nine hits and seven earned runs in just 3 2/3 innings in a no-decision, which pushed his ERA above five. But then in his next start, against the Padres on Friday, Kim baffled the San Diego hitters through 7 2/3 innings, scattering five hits and striking out seven in the 3-1 victory.
“[Kim] had it going,” the Padres’ Dave Roberts told The Associated Press. “His delivery is tough. He kept us at bay.”
Though the Rockies remain below .500, Kim is confident that the team will climb up the standings as the season goes on.
“I think we’ve got a chance this year,” Kim said on the team’s Web site following his latest victory. “We’ve got a good starting rotation and a good bullpen, and a lot of young players that are really good. We’ll be OK.”
What have not been so OK are the travails of Seo, who has gone from the contending Los Angeles Dodgers ― which have since fallen off the radar ― to the perennial underachiever Devil Rays. It took him six starts with the Devil Rays to get a win, and in two of the starts, the team failed to score a run for Seo.
He finally got some much-needed run support on Saturday. The Rays hammered Randy Johnson and four other pitchers of the New York Yankees with 17 hits, including four home runs, in a 19-6 victory, Seo’s first win for the Devil Rays, and also the first since May 22.
Seo was bailed out despite giving up five runs in 5 2/3 innings. The victory was his first career win in the month of July.
Later, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon praised Seo’s efforts for “keeping us in the game.” Seo told The Associated Press that he was glad to win on his daughter’s first birthday, and added, “It was wonderful that everything kind of clicked into place.”
And things may just start clicking right for outfielder Choo, the newest face on the disappointing Indians, which acquired the 24-year-old Korean in exchange for first baseman Ben Broussard from the Mariners last Wednesday.
Though the team is unlikely to make the postseason, Choo told the Indians’ Web site after the trade that, “There was no chance [to play] in Seattle, and there’s more of a chance here.”
He then went on to hit his first major league home run in his Indians debut, as his new team beat his former club 1-0 Friday at home.
With two outs in the sixth, Choo worked Seattle starter Felix Hernandez to a 3-0 count, and Indians manager Eric Wedge gave him the green light.
“He had some good at-bats there,” Wedge was quoted on the team’s Web site. “Two outs, nobody on, he looked like he had seen the ball as well as anybody off [Hernandez].”
Choo rewarded the manager’s faith by driving a hanging sinker some 430 feet over the scoreboard in left-center field.
“I was thankful the manager gave me a chance on a 3-0 pitch,” Choo told MLB.com. “Some managers might want you to take a pitch [in that situation], but he gave me a chance, and I hit a home run. I’m thankful for the manager.”
The crowd gave Choo a standing ovation when he went out to right field the next inning, many crooning, “Chooooooo!” One fan held up a sign with a locomotive drawn on it. The sign read, “Choo, Choo.”
“I don’t know why they did it, but I like it,” Choo told The Associated Press.
Choo may yet have work cut out for him to stay in the lineup.
The left-handed Choo was not in the lineup the following day, when lefty Jarrod Washburn was the opposing starting pitcher. “He’s not a seven-day guy,” said Wedge on ESPN.com. “Maybe four, five or six, depending on what we see.”
by Yoo Jee-ho