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New foreign hitters make quick impact in KBO

All Headlines 10:03 March 31, 2014

SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- New bats in the top South Korean baseball league made a quick impact over the opening weekend of the season, providing a glimpse into what could be an exciting offensive season.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) clubs are now allowed to sign an extra foreign player starting this season. Eight of the nine teams can now have up to three foreigner players, while the expansion NC Dinos, which came into the league last year, can have up to four on their roster for their first two seasons.

At least one of such players must be a position player. During the winter, teams scrambled to add experienced hitters to their lineups, hoping to bolster their offense.

In 2012 and 2013, all foreign players in the KBO had been pitchers. Experts had predicted before the season that those hitters would alter the dynamics of the competition this year, but even they likely didn't imagine the newcomers would start hitting right out of the gate.

<YNAPHOTO path='C:/YNA/YNACLI~1/Down/Article/AEN20140331002300315_01_i.jpg' id='' title='' caption='Jorge Cantu of the Doosan Bears rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the team&apos;s 5-4 victory over the LG Twins on March 29, 2014, in Seoul. (Yonhap)'/>

Two established Major League Baseball (MLB) hitters, Luke Scott of the SK Wyverns and Jorge Cantu of the Doosan Bears, went deep in their first KBO games on Saturday. Scott's Wyverns, though, lost to the Nexen Heroes 8-3, but Cantu's homer, a go-ahead three-run jack, proved to be decisive in Doosan's 5-4 win over the LG Twins.

On Sunday, more foreign bats helped their clubs win.

The Twins' Josh Bell went 3-for-6 with a two-run homer in the third inning, as his club emerged a 14-4 winner over Doosan.

The Lions lost the season opener to the Kia Tigers 2-1 on Saturday, but Yamaico Navarro made sure the three-time defending champs wouldn't lose the first two games of 2014. He hit a two-run homer as part of his 2-for-4 day with four RBIs on Sunday.

For the Kia Tigers, Brett Pill, making his KBO debut, hit a solo shot in the losing cause.

Felix Pie didn't leave the park for the Hanwha Eagles, but still inflicted plenty of damage on the Lotte Giants in the Eagles' 4-2 victory.

The former big league outfielder was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a steal, helping the Eagles win their first season opener in five years.

Over the first seven games of the season through Sunday, 14 homers have been hit and five of them came off the bats of the new foreigners.

If preseason numbers are any indication, fans might be in for a thrilling ride. In 50 spring games, hitters launched 86 homers, up from only 39 in 51 games last preseason. Pie and Scott were among the leaders in major offensive categories.

Teams scored 510 runs in those 50 preseason games, compared to 380 runs in 51 games last year.

More runs and more long balls could translate to bigger crowds in 2014. The KBO established its all-time record with 7.15 million fans in 2012 but slipped to just under 6.5 million fans in 2013. For this year, the KBO has set out to reach the 7-million plateau again.


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