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Pending free agent pitcher signs with Japanese agent

All Headlines 10:08 April 04, 2016

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- Pending South Korean free agent pitcher Cha Woo-chan has signed with a Japanese agent, sources said Monday, as he eyes a move to Japan after this season.

Sources said the left-hander has hired Shigeyuki Mito as his agent. The veteran lawyer has represented two South Korean players who've competed in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), Lee Seung-yuop and Lee Dae-ho, and also worked with the Seattle Mariners outfielder Norichika Aoki when he was playing in Japan.

Cha, 28, has been playing for the Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) since 2006 and will be eligible for free agency if he plays the full season in 2016.

For KBO pitchers to qualify for free agency, those who joined the league out of four-year colleges must have thrown at least two-thirds of the minimum number of innings required over eight seasons.

The minimum number of innings equals the number of games in a season. The KBO teams will each play 144 games this year.

Cha has been one of the KBO's most versatile pitchers over the past several seasons, though his counting stats -- 58-43 with a 4.39 ERA in 330 appearances with 814 strikeouts in 922 innings -- don't jump out. He has served in the rotation in some seasons and pitched out of the bullpen in others, his mix of fastballs and sharp sliders proving effective in all situations.

Last year, Cha led the KBO with 194 strikeouts in 173 innings, as he went 13-7 with a 4.79 ERA. For this season, he was the Lions' Opening Day starter last Friday.

Cha on Monday kept mum about his future beyond this season.

"I've never even dreamed of going to the majors because I am not that good of a pitcher," he said. "I also haven't given concrete thoughts to Japan. I just hope to have a good 2016 season and draw interests from both Korea and Japan."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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