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2 new American pitchers singled out by managers as ones to watch in new KBO season

All News 16:16 May 03, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean baseball clubs will often go only as far as their foreign aces take them. And the importance of those import hurlers could be magnified even more this year, with managers already recognizing some strong talent in this year's group.

During the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season-opening media day Sunday -- recorded Saturday via videoconferencing due to coronavirus concerns -- Aaron Brooks of the Kia Tigers and Chris Flexen of the Doosan Bears were singled out by several skippers as new foreign pitchers to watch.

Both former major leaguers are entering their first season in South Korea.

In this file photo from April 21, 2020, Aaron Brooks of the Kia Tigers pitches in a Korea Baseball Organization preseason game against the Samsung Lions at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Managers qualified their assessments by saying they have watched most of new foreign pitchers on tape. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the regular season has been pushed back from March 28 to Tuesday, and the league ran an abbreviated preseason from April 21 to last Friday. Teams only played six games apiece and only faced opponents within their regions. For instance, three Seoul-based clubs, the Doosan Bears, the LG Twins and the Kiwoom Heroes, only ventured out to as far as Incheon or Suwon, just west and south of the capital city.

The Twins' manager Ryu Joong-il has yet to see Brooks in person, but he was still impressed with the clips he's seen so far.

"He throws hard, and his two-seam fastball had a lot of horizontal movement," Ryu said. "He's looked pretty good so far."

KT Wiz skipper Lee Kang-chul, a former pitcher, chimed in: "Brooks has a simple, concise delivery, and his pitches have good movement. I think he'll be tough to hit."

In this file photo from April 27, 2020, Chris Flexen of the Doosan Bears pitches against the SK Wyverns in a Korea Baseball Organization preseason game at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The one manager who has seen Brooks in person in preseason, Huh Sam-young of the Samsung Lions, said the right-hander has the kind of stuff that could help him get acclimated to the new league quickly.

"He also manages his game really well, and we regard him as one of the pitchers to watch," Huh added. Brooks held the Lions to a run in four innings in a preseason game on April 21, while striking out four and walking none.

Brooks' own manager, Matt Williams, said he obviously likes his right-hander and added, "There are a lot of players in this league that have great potential."

One of them may be Flexen, who has come over to the KBO at a relatively young age of 25.

Kiwoom Heroes' manager Son Hyuk said Flexen should especially thrive in the Bears' home, Jamsil Stadium, which is the most pitcher-friendly park in the KBO. SK Wyverns' bench boss Youm Kyoung-youb said Flexen looked "much better in person than in video" and that he expects other new foreign pitchers to have strong seasons, too.

NC Dinos' manager Lee Dong-wook said Flexen has impressed him more than any other foreign pitcher this spring.

The new regular season begins Tuesday at five stadiums across the country.

This photo provided by the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on May 2, 2020, shows managers and captains from 10 KBO clubs participating in a virtual media day via videoconferencing from their home stadiums. The media day was televised on cable and streamed on web portals on May 3. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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