New Korean big leaguers ready for 1st season in US

February 12, 2016
Kim Hyun-soo, left, and Oh Seung-hwan.

Kim Hyun-soo, left, and Oh Seung-hwan.

By Nam Hyun-woo

New St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Oh Seung-hwan arrived in the U.S. Thursday to join the club’s spring training scheduled to begin on Feb. 18.

After signing a one-year deal, including an option for 2017, Jan. 12, the 33-year-old right-hander returned home a day later for his visa. While apologizing for his involvement in a gambling scandal, he said at Incheon International Airport that he will travel to Florida “as soon as my visa is issued.”

Oh posted 277 saves in nine seasons with the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) League through the 2013 season and earned 80 more for the Hanshin Tigers in the Central League of Nippon Professional Baseball during the past two seasons. He became a free agent after the 2015 season.

Meanwhile, another Korean made it into the big leagues this offseason, Kim Hyun-woo of the Baltimore Orioles, is giving a fine impression at his new club.

According to MASN, a Baltimore-based sports news outlet, the O’s vice president of baseball operations, Brady Anderson, praised him for his swing and his moves on the field, as well as vouching for Kim’s sense of humor.

“He has a really solid swing,” said Anderson. “I’ve thrown to him several times. … You can tell he’s had lots of practice. He’s very used to taking batting practice. … My understanding of Korea is they make a lot of practice swings, so he’s able to put more effort into our sessions.”

He said Kim, who mostly played left field during his KBO stint, brought some questions about his throwing arm, which may not be strong enough for right field. But Anderson added it seemed fine to him.

“He doesn’t speak English, but somehow he’s funny. You know what he’s saying in Korean and it’s funny. He fits right in,” Anderson said.