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Veteran pitcher Dustin Nippert joins new S. Korean club

All News 09:33 January 04, 2018

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- Once an odd man out in South Korean baseball free agency, veteran American pitcher Dustin Nippert signed with a new club Thursday to extend his career here.

The KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said they've agreed to terms with Nippert on a one-year deal worth US$1 million. Nippert was scheduled to undergo a physical later Thursday.

The Wiz extended the 36-year-old a lifeline after his former club, the Doosan Bears, declined to retain him for his eighth season following a sub-par 2017.

Wiz general manager Lim Jong-taek said Nippert is "a proven commodity" in terms of his skills and work ethic.

In this file photo taken Oct. 30, 2017, Dustin Nippert, then of the Doosan Bears, throws a pitch in Game 5 of the Korean Series against the Kia Tigers at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. Nippert agreed to terms of a one-year deal with the KT Wiz on Jan. 4, 2018. (Yonhap)

"Some of the players we were after decided to either stay put in the U.S. or sign in Japan, and time wasn't on our side with spring training approaching," Lim said. "We had the list of players who've previously pitched in the KBO before, and we felt Nippert would make the biggest contribution to our ball club."

Nippert had been the Bears' ace since 2011, making six Opening Day starts in his seven seasons there, and also won the regular season MVP award in 2016. He's currently the longest-tenured foreign player in the KBO.

But Nippert went 14-8 with a 4.06 ERA in 30 starts in 2017, still solid but not as spectacular as his MVP-winning season, when he compiled a 22-3 record and a 2.95 ERA.

Nippert made $2.1 million last year, and the Bears sought to bring him back at a much lower price tag. When the two sides couldn't come to an agreement, the Bears signed another KBO veteran, Josh Lindblom, in Nippert's stead on Dec. 11 to fill their foreign pitchers quota of two. The Bears had earlier replaced right-hander Michael Bowden with another righty, Seth Frankoff.

Nippert has a career KBO record of 94-43 with a 3.48 ERA. He also helped the Bears win back-to-back Korean Series championships in 2015 and 2016.

The lanky right-hander, listed at 203 centimeters, is joining a fourth-year expansion club that has been in the league cellar during its first three seasons.

In 2017, the Wiz went 50-94 and had the league's second-worst ERA at 5.75. Their pitchers had the fewest strikeouts (913) and allowed the second-most home runs (174). Teams bat .301 against the Wiz pitching, the highest opponents' batting average in the KBO.

The lone bright spot in the staff was American left-hander Ryan Feierabend, who, despite an 8-10 record, led the KBO in ERA with 3.04. The Wiz re-signed Feierabend for $1.05 million, up from $680,000 in 2017.

If Nippert can bounce back and Feierabend continues to baffle hitters, the Wiz will have one of the KBO's best righty-lefty combinations at the top of their rotation.

"Nippert himself wanted to play for us," Lim said. "I expect him to be a key piece in our rotation."


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