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KBO club receives mixed preseason results from 3 new foreign players

Sports 10:22 March 14, 2019

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- The sample size may be small, but the Kia Tigers must be enjoying what they've seen from their two new foreign pitchers so far in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) preseason.

But when it comes to their new import bat, not so much.

Jacob Turner of the Kia Tigers throws a pitch against the SK Wyverns in a Korea Baseball Organization preseason game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Jacob Turner made his preseason debut on Tuesday with five shutout innings against the SK Wyverns. Joe Wieland followed that up with 5 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday against the same opponents.

Those two right-handers have replaced Hector Noesi and Pat Dean from last season's staff. Turner and Wieland will join former KBO MVP Yang Hyeon-jong at the top of what should be a strong rotation.

At the plate, the Tigers signed ex-big league outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker to replace Roger Bernadina, who batted .315 with 47 home runs, 64 steals, 181 RBIs and 224 runs scored in two seasons with the Tigers.

Hazelbaker has yet to make Kia fans forget about Bernadina, having gone 0-for-7 with six strikeouts in two games.

The Tigers have traditionally had strong performances from their foreign pitchers, with Noesi, who won 20 games in 2017, being the most recent example.

They haven't been as lucky with hitters. Bernadina batted at least .300 and had 20-20 seasons (at least 20 homers and 20 steals) in both 2017 and 2018, but he is one of few foreign batters to have left a mark with the Tigers.

The club parted ways with the 34-year-old and brought in Hazelbaker, who is three years younger and has 155 big league games under his belt, with a .258/.327/.500 line.

The Tigers would be wise to exercise patience with Hazelbaker. New hitters tend to take longer to adjust to pitching in the new league and Bernadina, too, had his struggles early in his first season.

In this Penta Press file photo from April 6, 2016, Jeremy Hazelbaker (R), then with the St. Louis Cardinals, celebrates a home run with teammate Greg Garcia during the top of the sixth inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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