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Foreign starters account for more than half of victories for KBO clubs

All Headlines 14:57 April 10, 2014

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- With the nine clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) having played seven to 10 games through Wednesday, foreign pitchers have accounted for more than half of all victories by starters.

Starting pitchers for the nine clubs have won 26 games through Wednesday, and 15 of them were by foreign hurlers.

This year, there are 19 pitchers from overseas in the KBO: two apiece for eight clubs and three for the expansion NC Dinos, which are allowed to carry one more foreign player than the rest of the league for this season.

Of those 19, 18 are starters, the exception being the Kia Tigers closer, Jairo Ascencio. Two of those 18 have yet to make an appearance: J.D. Martin for the Samsung Lions is injured, and Everett Teaford of the LG Twins signed at the end of last month, and is getting ready for his first game here.

The 16 who have pitched are already making an impact.

Moon Sung-hyun of the Nexen Heroes was credited with the win in the team's 10-7 victory over the Kia Tigers. It was the first win by a South Korean starter for Nexen in 10 games this season. The Heroes had been so unhappy about their pitchers' performance that their pitching coach, Choi Sang-deok, was demoted to the minors, along with two pitchers, before Wednesday's game.

The Dinos have three wins from their starters, with the two American pitchers, Thad Weber and Eric Hacker combining for all three.

The last-place Hanwha Eagles have two wins by their starters: one each by Andrew Albers and Caleb Clay.

The Lions, missing Martin, have Rick van den Hurk as the lone import on the mound, and he has one of his club's two starting wins.

The SK Wyverns and the Kia Tigers have been exceptions. Two South Korean starters for SK, Kim Kwang-hyun and Chei Byung-yong, have combined for three of the teams five wins by starters. Kia has three wins from three South Korean starters, and two by Dennis Houlton, the first-year American pitcher. Houlton has been far more effective than his South Korean teammates, though, with a 2-0 record and a 0.69 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 13 innings

The Tigers' manager Sun Dong-ryul said the quirk of the KBO scheduling means the top two or three starters in rotations get extra turns over those in the bottom of the pecking order.

Because the KBO has an odd number of teams, clubs each take a turn in getting four consecutive days off, while eight teams go toe-to-toe in three-game sets. Teams are either off from Friday to Monday, or from Monday to Thursday.

This means, for instance, a No. 1 starter can pitch on a Sunday to wrap up a weekend three-game series, have four days off, and come back to pitch in the new series opener the following Friday.

"Except for one of two clubs, hardly any team has enough depth to use a normal five-man rotation," Sun said. "With extended breaks during the season, teams are more inclined to rely on their top two or three starters, and it's the foreign pitchers that occupy those spots."

In 2012 and 2013, all foreign players in the KBO had been pitchers. Last year, nine of the top 10 pitchers in innings pitched had come from overseas, with Noh Kyung-eun of the Doosan Bears being the only South Korean on the list.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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