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Dodgers' pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin predicts success for friend Kang Jung-ho

All Headlines 11:13 January 18, 2015

SURPRISE, Arizona, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- Ryu Hyun-jin, the South Korean pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, on Saturday predicted a successful major league career for his compatriot and friend Kang Jung-ho, a shortstop who recently signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ryu in 2012 became the first player from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to join a major league club via posting, by reaching a six-year US$36 million contract with the Dodgers. Then, last Friday, Kang became the first position player from the KBO to make the jump, as his four-year deal with the Bucs was made official.

The two 27-year-olds have been close friends throughout their pro careers. As Kang joined his former KBO team, the Nexen Heroes, for their spring training here Saturday, Ryu watched his buddy from the sidelines. Ryu had earlier arrived in Glendale, also in Arizona, to begin his offseason training.

Ryu said he felt Kang, who hit a career-high 40 home runs in the KBO last year, could hit more than 20 home runs in the majors in a full season.

"I think his bat will be more than good enough in the majors," Ryu said. "I think he will be able to hit (big league) fastballs, and if he can be a full-time player, he can easily launch over 20 home runs."

Though the Pirates' spacious home stadium, PNC Park, is tougher on right-handed hitters, there will be other hitter-friendly parks on the road where Kang could thrive, Ryu added.

The pitcher added that a different strike zone in the majors compared to the KBO may work to Kang's advantage, since big league umpires are stingy with inside pitches.

Ryu has gone 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA as a No. 3 starter behind a pair of Cy Young Award-winning stars, Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke. In the KBO, Ryu had Kang's number for the seven seasons that he pitched there. Kang was just 6-for-34 against Ryu with one home run, two RBIs and 11 strikeouts.

The Pirates and the Dodgers will face each other six times in the regular season. There will be a three-game series at PNC Park in August, followed by a three-get set at Dodger Stadium in September.

Ryu has been given permission by the Dodgers to train with the KBO's LG Twins in Glendale before the opening of the Dodgers' camp next month, according to the player's agency.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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