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S. Korean pitcher Yoon Suk-min passes Orioles' physical, deal becomes official: reports

All Headlines 04:52 February 17, 2014

SEOUL/MESA, Arizona, Feb. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korean pitcher Yoon Suk-min has passed the physical with the Baltimore Orioles, making his multiyear deal with the Major League Baseball (MLB) club official, U.S. reports said on Sunday.

MLB Daily Dish, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, said the South Korean right-hander has cleared the physical and the deal will be announced in the coming days.

The Orioles haven't made an official announcement of Yoon's signing, which was first reported on Thursday, but the team has scheduled a press conference for Monday, likely to unveil the pitcher as its newest member.

Yoon reportedly signed a three-year deal worth US$5.575 million that could reach up to around $13 million with performance-based incentives.

Yoon, 27, reported to the Orioles' spring training camp in Sarasota, Florida, over the weekend. He will need his work permit to appear in spring training games but can still train with the Orioles while his visa is being processed. He plans to get his visa through Canada, rather than fly back to South Korea.

Yoon is a former MVP in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), taking the pitching Triple Crown for the Kia Tigers in 2011 with 17 wins, 178 strikeouts and a 2.45 ERA.

Once the deal is announced, Yoon will become the second South Korean to move directly from the KBO to the majors. Left-handed pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers made that jump in December 2012, and won 14 games in his rookie season in 2013.

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

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 pitched for South Korea at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Starting the semifinal match against Venezuela at the 2009 WBC, Yoon held the South American team of MLB veterans to two runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, as South Korea romped to a 10-2 victory.

During this offseason, the Orioles had agreements with two free agents, Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin, fall through after the players' physicals. Balfour, a relief pitcher, went on to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays, while Colvin, an outfielder, remains a free agent after a pre-existing back injury foiled his deal with the O's.

In late 2011, a South Korean pitcher, Chong Tae-hyon, had agreed to join the Orioles but failed the team's physical. The right-hander ended up signing with the Lotte Giants in the KBO.

Also in 2011, the Orioles signed a Japanese left-hander, Tsuyoshi Wada, to a two-year, $8.15 million deal. He never got to pitch for the big league club, however, after undergoing an elbow reconstruction operation, commonly known as Tommy John Surgery.

Aside from Ryu and Yoon, the Texas Rangers' outfielder Choo Shin-soo will be the other big leaguer from South Korea in 2014. Right-hander Lim Chang-yong pitched briefly for the Chicago Cubs last season and has been invited to the Cubs' spring training this month to fight for a big league job.

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 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 February 2012, the Orioles botched the signing of a South Korean high school sophomore, Kim Seong-min, when they failed to tender a status check, as required by MLB teams seeking to acquire a South Korean player.

The Orioles issued an apology for their mishap. The left-hander's contract was not approved by the MLB for 30 days, and Baltimore ultimately didn't sign Kim. Baltimore scouts are banned from attending amateur baseball games in South Korea.

Last July, the O's signed a South Korean left-hander, Yoon Jung-hyun, a college dropout, to a minor league deal.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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