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Foreign players in KBO break out of slump

All Headlines 14:57 June 21, 2018

SEOUL, June 21 (Yonhap) -- A pair of foreign players in the top South Korean baseball league have broken out of slumps at the plate and on the mound, just when it seemed their days here could be numbered.

Lotte Giants' second baseman Andy Burns has homered in six consecutive games, tying the record for the longest such streak by a foreign hitter in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Charles Smith, formerly of the Samsung Lions, homered in six games in a row in 1999.

Burns, a defensive stalwart at second base, was sitting at just five homers through May, with a batting average of .239. He then exploded for 10 home runs in June, including nine during his current streak. With 15 homers through 60 games, Burns has already matched his homer total from 116 games in 2017.

This undated file photo provided by the Lotte Giants shows the club's second baseman, Andy Burns, being congratulated by his teammates. (Yonhap)

His batting average is now up to .288 through Wednesday's action. Burns is batting .421 for June, with eight walks against just nine strikeouts. Last month, Burns struck out 24 times while drawing just five walks.

Logan Verrett, pitching in his first KBO season for the NC Dinos, has put together two consecutive quality starts for the first time all year. He held the LG Twins to three earned runs over seven innings on June 13, and gave up just one run against the Kia Tigers in seven innings on Wednesday.

Verrett was demoted to the Futures League -- the KBO's minor league -- on May 14, with his record sitting at 2-5 with a 6.49 ERA in nine starts.

He was promoted back to the KBO for a start on June 7, three days after general manager Yoo Young-joon took over as interim manager following Kim Kyung-moon's dismissal.

Verrett had a no-decision after allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings, before tossing back-to-back quality outings. He is now 3-5 with a 5.49 ERA.

While the counting stats still look ugly, the past two starts just might have saved Verrett's job here.

KBO teams are each permitted three foreign players, with a maximum of two pitchers. And all 10 clubs have gone the route of signing two pitchers and one position player. When they go after former major leaguers or long-time minor leaguers, they do so with expectations that they will front their starting rotations and keep the team in most games. If they fall short of those expectations, foreign players can find themselves on a short leash.

In this file photo from March 25, 2018, Logan Verrett of the NC Dinos throws a pitch against the LG Twins during a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Masan Stadium in Changwon, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The first-place Doosan Bears are the only team to have cut ties with a foreign player this year. They released infielder Jimmy Paredes on June 1 after he hit just .138 (9-for-65) with one home run and four RBIs in 21 games.

Though Burns wasn't slumping nearly as badly as Paredes and clearly offered more value with his glove, the Giants certainly expected more out of their lone foreign bat.

Burns started hitting better when he moved down the order to the No. 8 hole, a place usually reserved for a team's weakest hitter. Burns began his current home run streak as the No. 8 hitter on June 14 and hasn't moved out of that spot since.

It may have lifted some pressure off his shoulders. For the season, Burns is slashing .360/.418/1.040 in 50 at-bats from the No. 8 spot, with 10 homers and 19 RBIs.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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