Park struggles and gets demoted again
The former MLB starter was demoted to Japan’s minor league for a second time on Monday after another poor outing for the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league’s Orix Buffaloes on Sunday.
Park, 38, who holds the record for most wins in the MLB by an Asian pitcher, with 124, was the losing pitcher in Sunday’s game against the Chunichi Dragons, after allowing six runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.
“I made careless pitches in the second and fourth inning,” Park told Japanese sports daily, Sports Nippon, after the game against the Dragons. “I tried to stay in the game but it’s too bad that I couldn’t.”
It was the first time Park was pulled from a game before the fifth inning since he moved to Japan this year. The right-hander now has a 1-5 record and a 4.29 ERA in seven starts.
For the Buffaloes coaching staff, Park’s poor performance is more than disappointing.
The Japanese club, which currently sits at the bottom of the Pacific League standings, had big hopes when they signed Park but his performance has been worse than expected and criticism against the pitcher is getting harsh.
Osamu Fukuma, the Buffaloes chief pitching coach, told Japan’s Kyoto News on Monday that Park really needs to improve his performance while explaining the club’s decision to send the former Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher to the second-tier team.
“[Park] needs to work harder,” said Fukuma. “He’s not here for vacation.”
This is Park’s second time getting demoted to the minors in Japan - he got dropped the first time after losing to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks on May 11. After spending 11 days in the lower division, Park was brought back up and pitched a six-inning three-hit shutout against the Yomiuri Giants. After that game, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara praised Park, saying “our hitters were suppressed by Park’s major league force.”
But his disaster of a performance against the Dragons on Sunday was perhaps the final straw for Orix manager Akinobu Okada. He set conditions when he first sent Park to the minors three weeks ago, but this time there was no mention of forgiveness from the 54-year-old manager, which means Park’s stay in the minors could be a long one.
“Park was easily beaten even when he led the count with two strikes,” Okada told Kyoto News after the game on Sunday. “I don’t know if he will get another chance or not.”
Losing the coaching staff’s trust could be the final blow for Park. When he came to Japan this year after ending his 17-year career in the MLB, the pitcher knew he would have to impress in the NPB.
But after less-than-stellar outings and recent comments made by the coaching staff, Park may no longer be desirable. Some around the league are even saying Orix could pick up a new foreign pitcher because the NPB doesn’t have a quota on the number of foreign players a team can sign.
Baseball experts say Park’s dreadful performances can be attributable to poor command. Park has struggled to locate his breaking ball this season, often throwing it up in the strike zone where opposing batters can hit it with authority.
Meanwhile, the Buffaloes said starters Chihiro Kaneko and Kazuki Kondo have both come back from injury and will fill the void left by Park’s demotion.
By Kim Sik, Joo Kyung-don [firstname.lastname@example.org]
한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]
‘부진’ 박찬호, 일주일 만에 2군 행
일본 프로야구 오릭스의 박찬호(38)가 일주일 만에 다시 2군으로 강등됐다. 일본 스포츠전문지 닛칸스포츠는 30일 '오카다 아키노부 오릭스 감독이 박찬호에게 2군행을 통보했다'고 보도했다. 29일 주니치와 교류전에서 3⅓이닝동안 9피안타 6실점(5자책)으로 일본무대 최악의 부진을 보인 직후다.
박찬호의 2군 강등은 개막 두 달만에 벌써 두 번째다. 지난 11일 소프트뱅크전에서 시즌 4패째를 당한 뒤 2군에 내려갔다가 22일 복귀했으나 2경기 선발등판 후 재강등됐다. 22일 요미우리전에서는 6이닝 3피안타 무실점으로 호투했지만 29일 주니치전에서는 1회에만 6안타를 맞는 등 기대이하였다.
첫 2군행이 교류전 일정에 맞춘 컨디션 조절 차원이었던 데 반해 이번 2군행은 부진으로 인한 것이어서 복귀까지 오래 걸릴 수 있다. 닛칸스포츠는 '오카다 감독이 믿었던 1선발 기사누키 히로시와 박찬호의 배신이 계속되자 과감한 조치를 했다'고 설명했다. 박찬호는 올시즌 7경기에 선발 등판해 1승5패, 평균자책점 4.29를 기록했다.