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Major League Baseball checks availability of S. Korean pitcher

All Headlines 14:39 November 16, 2011

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- Major League Baseball (MLB) has taken a formal step before pursuing a South Korean free agent pitcher, the local baseball league said Wednesday.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said the MLB has formally asked for the availability of pitcher Chong Tae-hyon, who declared for free agency last week. Overseas leagues typically check with the KBO for the availability of desirable players.

The KBO added that it informed the MLB of the free agent negotiating window that opens for foreign clubs this coming Sunday, after Chong holds talks with his original club, the SK Wyverns, over a possible re-signing.

Free agents can negotiate with their original team between Nov. 10 and 19. Then over a 20-day period from Nov. 20 to Dec. 9, they can speak with any team other than the original club. Then from Dec. 10 to Jan. 15, free agents have the final chance to talk with anyone.

Those not signed by Jan. 15 will be ruled ineligible for the next season.

Of 17 KBO free agents this offseason, Chong is the first one to be approached by the majors. It wasn't immediately known which major league club or clubs showed interest in Chong.

Sources said Chong and the Wyverns haven't narrowed their differences on the length of a new deal and the pitcher will soon test the market. Because of the heavy compensation required for KBO teams to sign free agents -- in the form of a player, cash or both -- Chong is likely to sign with an overseas team if he can't reach a deal with the Wyverns.

The 33-year-old right-hander with a submarine delivery, Chong has been a key part of the Wyverns' bullpen that helped the team to KBO titles in 2007, 2008 and 2010. Though he is not known for velocity, Chong has fooled hitters with good command of his off-speed pitches.

In 11 KBO seasons, he has a 32-22 win-loss record with 99 saves in 477 games, with an earned run average (ERA) of 1.93 in 569 innings.

Chong has also excelled in international tournaments. As a college student in 2000, he was a member of South Korea's bronze medal-winning team at the Sydney Olympics. He induced the gold medal-clinching double play against Cuba at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and also pitched for South Korea when it finished as the runner-up at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Choo Shin-soo, an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, is the only South Korean currently in the majors.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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