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(LEAD) Pitcher Lim Chang-yong makes first U.S. appearance in minor league

All Headlines 18:05 June 25, 2013

(ATTN; ADDS agent's comment in para 8)

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korean pitcher Lim Chang-yong, who signed with the Chicago Cubs last year, made his first appearance for the team's minor league affiliate on Monday in Arizona.

Lim gave up two runs on three hits in one inning of work as a starter for the Cubs' Arizona League affiliate against the Los Angeles Angels' Arizona League counterparts. Lim had been rehabbing from his elbow reconstructive operation from last July, commonly known as Tommy John surgery, and had hoped to return to live pitching by mid-July.

The Arizona League is one of six circuits in Rookie ball, the lowest level in U.S. minor league baseball.

The Cubs scored a run in the top first, but in the bottom first, Lim, a 37-year-old right-hander, gave up a leadoff single to Mark Shannon, and Jon Pellant followed that up with a bunt single.

Taylor Johnson, the third batter, hit a single to score Shannon, and advanced to second on an error by the Cubs' right fielder Xavier Batista.

Lim struck out Glenn Beltran, but Natanael Delgado hit a sacrifice fly for the second run off the South Korean pitcher. Lim ended the inning by getting Ricky Martinez to fly out to right.

The Angels affiliate went on to win 13-3.

Lim's agent, Park Yoo-hyun, said the player told him on the phone that he hit 150 kilometers per hour on the radar gun during the game, and that he will make his next appearance on Thursday.

Lim pitched the previous five seasons for the Yakult Swallows in the Central League of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan. Before that, he spent 13 seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) with two different teams.

He underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career in July last year to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow and had been expected to remain sidelined for at least the first half of 2013.

After signing with the Cubs in December, Lim repeatedly said his goal was to make the major league roster by mid-summer.

If Lim reaches the majors this year, he will be the third South Korean player in the big leagues in 2013, joining outfielder Choo Shin-soo of the Cincinnati Reds and pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers. All three players will be in the National League (NL) and in the case of Lim and Choo, in the same NL Central division.

The Cubs were reportedly interested in Lim for his unique, sidearm delivery and his ability to reach well over 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) on the radar gun.

The Cubs, who haven't won a World Series title since 1908, probably won't end their drought this year. Through Tuesday, Korean time, they were at 31-43, tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the worst record in the division.

In the highly competitive NL Central, the top three teams -- St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Reds -- own the three best winning percentages in the entire MLB.

Before this season, the Cubs signed Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to a two-year, US$9.5 million contract. The right-hander who used to compete with Lim for saves in the NPB's Central League for the Hanshin Tigers.

Fujikawa, though, has been ruled out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this month. He made 12 appearances for the Cubs, going 1-1 with two saves and a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings.

If the Cubs remain out of contention later in the season and Lim continues to make progress in his rehab, he could join the big league club when the active roster expands from 25 players to 40 players on Sept. 1.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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