By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, July 16 (Yonhap) -- Yoon Jung-hyun, a former South Korean college pitcher who recently signed with the Baltimore Orioles, said Tuesday he will try to model himself after a fellow Korean hurler who has had an early success in Major League Baseball (MLB).
The Orioles announced the signing of the 20-year-old left-hander earlier this month. It was a surprise acquisition of an unheralded player who was mid-round draft pick in the domestic Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) out of high school, and dropped out of a Seoul-based university last August. The Orioles cited Yoon's "smooth delivery" and his "solid curveball with significant upside."
At a press conference in Seoul Tuesday, Yoon said he will try to be as successful as Ryu Hyun-jin, a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who has enjoyed a solid rookie season in the big leagues, with a 7-3 record and a 3.09 ERA in 18 starts.
"I always take the mound with confidence, believing I can beat the other team," Yoon said. "I want to throw with as much confidence as Ryu Hyun-jin. I am going to do my best and I believe all the hard work will pay off. Maybe one day, I can pitch in the same game as Ryu."
The soft-spoken Yoon, listed at 187 centimeters and 89 kilograms, also said as a fellow southpaw, he looks up to C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees. The hulking American lefty has won 200 games so far in his 13-year big league career and won the American League Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians in 2007.
Yoon appeared in 11 games for Dongguk University last year, going 2-1 with a 4.36 ERA in 33 1/3 innings.
Choi Eun-chul, a scout with the Orioles who accompanied Yoon to the press conference, said the Orioles liked the young pitcher's upside and his ability to throw inside to the right-handed batters.
According to Choi, Yoon will begin his U.S. career in the Rookie League, the lowest level in the minor league, and will slowly work his way up the ladder.
"If Yoon can stay healthy, we believe he will become a good pitcher," Choi said. "He's already talented enough to pitch in Class A ball (above the Rookie League)."
Yoon is known to hit 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour) with his fastball and also throw a sharp slider that breaks in on right-handed batters.
The Orioles' acquisition of Yoon came a little more than a year after the team botched the signing of another young South Korean pitcher.
In January last year, the Orioles announced they signed high school pitcher Kim Seong-min, but the move angered the KBO and also the Korea Baseball Association (KBA), the governing body of amateur baseball, because the MLB club didn't go through the mandatory status check of the player's availability.
It forced the Orioles to apologize to the KBO and the KBA for an "unintentional breach of protocol." The KBA banned the Orioles scouts from attending South Korean high school and university games.
According to the KBA, the ban on the Orioles' scouts is still in effect, though an official there has admitted it may be difficult to enforce the ban.
At Tuesday's news conference, Choi, the Orioles' scout, said the club will keep looking for good young players in South Korea "within boundaries" established by the KBA.
Dan Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, has long been known for his active pursuit of South Korean players. While he was the general manager for the Boston Red Sox from 1994 to 2002, Duquette signed three South Korean pitchers, Kim Sun-woo, Cho Jin-ho and Lee Sang-hoon, all of whom reached the majors on his watch.
In late 2011, Duquette was in pursuit of another South Korean free agent, right-hander Chong Tae-hyon. The KBO All-Star had medical issues and instead signed with the Lotte Giants in the KBO.
Then in January 2012, the O's signed Choi to a minor league deal before the right-hander became a scout.
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