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(LEAD) MLB takes formal step for big league clubs to sign S. Korean pitcher

All Headlines 21:10 January 14, 2014

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout)

SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- Major League Baseball (MLB) has requested a status check on South Korean star pitcher Yoon Suk-min, baseball officials here said Tuesday, a formal administrative step before a big league club can sign any professional player from Korea.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said it informed MLB that Yoon is eligible for free agency after being asked about the 27-year-old's status in the top domestic league.

The request is the second of its kinds after MLB first tendered a status check to the KBO in October when Yoon was still under contract with the Kia Tigers during the postseason.

Under an agreement between MLB and the KBO, a big league team interested in a South Korean player must go through the background check through the league offices.

According to the U.S. media reports, the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins are among the teams interested in the right-hander.

Yoon, voted the MVP here in 2011 after winning the pitching Triple Crown, will soon be leaving for the United States to discuss his options, according to his agent, Al Chun, the director of Asian operations at the Boras Corporation, run by the uber-agent Scott Boras.

The three-time KBO All-Star has a career record of 73-59 with 44 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 303 appearances. In 1,129 innings, he has struck out 949 batters and walked 345. He has been both a starter and a closer in his KBO career.

Yoon was sidelined at the start of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury, and was limited to 87 2/3 innings. He was 3-6 with seven saves in 30 appearances, 11 of them starts, with a 4.00 ERA, 76 strikeouts and 28 walks.

Yoon can reach up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) with his fastball, and also throws a hard slider at about 140 kilometers. He lost some bite on his fastball in 2013 with shoulder problems.

He completed his seventh KBO season in 2011, and was thus eligible to be posted for an auction among interested MLB clubs with the Tigers' consent. The Tigers, however, didn't grant Yoon his wish to test the big league market, on the grounds that they needed Yoon to compete for a title here.

Yoon also required the team's approval to pursue a major league contract after the 2012 season and the Tigers also declined.

Now that he's played nine years, Yoon can exercise his rights as a full-fledged free agent and doesn't require a green light from the Tigers to sign with an overseas club.

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