Chong ends pursuit of Major League dream

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Chong ends pursuit of Major League dream

Korean pitcher Chong Tae-hyon yesterday signed with a local club soon after ending his contract talks with a Major League Baseball team in the United States.

Chong signed a four-year deal with the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) at 500 million won ($434,000) per season, plus a 1 billion won signing bonus and other possible bonuses adding up to 600 million won.

Just hours earlier yesterday, Chong said in an e-mail statement that he had decided to end contract talks with the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East Division. Instead, he wanted to pursue a deal with a Korean team.

“I informed Baltimore of my decision this morning,” Chong wrote. “I will now seek to join a Korean team.”

After signing with the Giants, based in a southeastern city of Busan, Chong said he wants to help his new club win the league championship in 2012.

“I had some tough times in the U.S. and Lotte really impressed me with their aggressive pursuit,” he said through the team.

In the earlier e-mail statement, Chong had written that he wasn’t swayed by any KBO team to return to Korea, saying no club made a serious offer after he declared his intention to play in the U.S. early in his free agency.

“I’d like to thank the club for recognizing my value,” Chong added. “I am happy to be playing in Busan, a big baseball town with a passionate fan base.”

The Giants have been to the KBO playoffs in each of the past four seasons but haven’t reached the Korean Series, the championship round, during that streak. Troubled by an inconsistent bullpen, the Giants earlier signed Lee Seung-ho, a free agent, who is a left-handed reliever and Chong’s former teammate on the SK Wyverns.

An 11-year veteran with the Wyverns, Chong declared free agency last month and left for the U.S. on Nov. 18 to seek opportunities in the majors.

The Orioles reportedly offered the right-hander a two-year contract worth $3.2 million last month, along with a spot on the 40-man major league roster, a generous offer for a career reliever who has never played overseas before. Chong would have become the 13th Korean major leaguer, and the first to make the jump from the KBO to the majors.

Despite reports that the signing was imminent, Chong returned to Korea last Wednesday to undergo further medical tests. Chong explained in his statement that the talks were slowed because of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and issues related to medical tests.

“I had issues with my liver, but I had no problems with my knees, shoulders or elbows as rumored,” the pitcher said. “We had some differences in treatment, but I can’t go into further details about the deal.”

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