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Struggling foreign hitters in need of quick turnaround

All Headlines 13:50 April 22, 2019

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- By tossing a no-hitter, Samsung Lions' Deck McGuire might just have earned himself at least another start in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

McGuire had been struggling mightily in his first season in South Korea, and the leash on the American right-hander was getting shorter and shorter. In five previous starts, McGuire had gone 0-2 with a 6.56 ERA. With the dominant outing Sunday, in which he struck out 13, McGuire lowered his ERA to 4.73.

In this file photo from March 12, 2019, Jeremy Hazelbaker of the Kia Tigers (C) is in action in center field against the SK Wyverns during the bottom of the sixth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

And there are some first-year foreign hitters who are in desperate need for a similarly dramatic turnaround at the plate, or they could be shown the door.

Kia Tigers' outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker is trying to get his game together in the Futures League, the KBO's equivalent of the minor league, after batting just .146 with 18 strikeouts in 11 games. The ex-major leaguer hasn't been that much better in the minors, with a .176 batting average in nine games.

With the Tigers mired in last place with eight wins, they're the only club to have failed to reach double figures in victories this year -- the team's patience is running out.

Tommy Joseph of the LG Twins, a two-time 20-homer man with the Philadelphia Phillies, has been banged up. Though he has launched a team-best five home runs, Joseph has only appeared in 16 of the Twins' 25 games with back and groin injuries. He was batting .232/.313/.500 in those games.

In this file photo from April 10, 2019, Tommy Joseph of the LG Twins (L) bumps fists with his first base coach Kim Ho after a single against the Samsung Lions in the bottom of the fifth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

While Joseph offers plenty of power, the Twins' general manager Cha Myeong-seok said last week he won't wait forever for Joseph to get healthy, and he'll be ready to pull the trigger on a deal to replace Joseph with a similar type of power hitter.

For the NC Dinos, Christian Bethancourt has been on the down slope since homering on Opening Day on March 23. He's only hitting .213 in 11 games, having missed some time with a hamstring injury.

Compared with the other two slumping hitters though, Bethancourt offers some versatility on the field. He can play first base and in the outfield, and he has some experience playing catcher as well, though he has yet to appear behind the plate in the KBO.

KBO teams are each permitted to sign up to three foreign players, with a maximum of two pitchers. Every team this season is carrying two pitchers and one position player. And those hitters, with at least some major league experience, are often under pressure to produce right away in the middle of their lineups.

In this March 23, 2019, photo provided by the NC Dinos, Christian Bethancourt watches his three-run home run against the Samsung Lions in the bottom of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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