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(LEAD) S. Korean pitcher partially admits to overseas gambling charges

All Headlines 17:29 December 09, 2015

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS background throughout)

SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- Oh Seung-hwan, a free agent South Korean pitcher seeking a major league contract, partially admitted to overseas gambling charges on Wednesday, prosecutors said.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office called in Oh early in the morning to investigate whether the 33-year-old gambled some hundreds of millions of won in Macau in November 2014 as stated by a gambling house owner.

The prosecutors are known to have secured Oh's entry log to the casino, as well as the record on his money transaction with the gambling house owner, identified only by his surname Lee.

During the five-hour interrogation, Oh admitted to borrowing chips worth some hundreds of millions of won but claimed that the actual number of times he gambled and the amount he bet remained insignificant, prosecutors said.

Last month, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club Samsung Lions released veteran pitcher Lim Chang-yong after he was grilled by prosecutors over similar suspicions. During a 13-hour interrogation, Lim admitted to gambling in Macau but denied he bet as much money as what the gambling house owner claimed. The two are suspected to have left together.

Prosecutors are said to be considering indicting both Lim and Oh without physical detention if they can establish that the two players didn't gamble away as much money as suspected.

Oh had pitched for the Lions from 2005 to 2013. Two of his former Samsung teammates, pitchers Yun Sung-hwan and An Ji-man, are also facing gambling charges.

Oh pitched the last two seasons for the Hanshin Tigers in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).

The right-hander led the Central League in saves in each of the past two seasons. Despite a leg injury that cut his season short in September, Oh tied Tony Barnette with 41 saves this year, along with a 2.83 ERA, striking out 66 in 69 1/3 innings. Last year, his first in the NPB, Oh recorded 39 saves with a 1.76 ERA while striking out 81 in 66 2/3 innings.

Oh, the career leader in saves in the KBO with 277 saves in nine seasons with the Lions, has been trying to land a big league contract after a successful stint in Asia. He had traveled to the United States last month but was forced to return home for questioning.

It remains to be seen whether Major League Baseball (MLB) teams will look past Oh's charges and still go after the right-hander. One official with an American League club recently told Yonhap News Agency that he doubted Oh's charges could present a big problem for MLB teams if the situation was sorted out quickly and if Oh avoided a jail term.

In Japan, the media reports have said that the Tigers will no longer try to bring back the South Korean for his third season.

If Oh were to return to the KBO, he may only sign with the Lions. However, since the Lions have already released Lim over gambling suspicions, it's unlikely they will acquire Oh for his second tour of duty with the club.



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