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Returning closer to be eased back into KBO action

All News 19:32 June 03, 2020

SEOUL, June 3 (Yonhap) -- The greatest closer in South Korean baseball history is on track to return from a lengthy suspension next week, but his manager said Wednesday he is in no hurry to throw him into the fire.

Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions, the all-time saves leader in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) with 277, is serving out his 72-game suspension, stemming from an overseas gambling conviction. The KBO handed down the ban in 2016 and the half-season suspension kicked in when Oh rejoined the Lions last August, after getting released by the Colorado Rockies.

Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions puts on his cap during practice at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on June 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

Oh played for the Lions from 2005 to 2013, before spending the next two years with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan and then parts of four seasons in the majors with the Rockies, the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Barring rainouts, Oh will be eligible to join the Lions' active roster next Tuesday. He traveled with the team to Seoul this week for a three-game series against the LG Twins at Jamsil Baseball Stadium. He threw 40 pitches in a bullpen session prior to Wednesday's game, but he isn't yet allowed to sit in the dugout or bullpen during games.

Samsung manager Huh Sam-young said he liked what he saw from Oh, considering the circumstances.

"A bullpen session is obviously different from a game, and he couldn't have been pitching at his 100 percent today," Huh said at his pregame press conference. "I think he has been preparing himself while taking into account differences in intensity and pressure."

Huh said he hasn't yet discussed what Oh's role will be upon his return. Logically, Oh will be the Lions' closer, but Huh said it won't necessarily happen right away.

"If he starts going into games in the ninth inning, he may feel some pressure," Huh said. "Since we have enough time, we'll see what happens. We may send him out in less stressful situations and give him some time to adjust."

He threw some spring training games with the Lions this year. But his last competitive game came with the Rockies on May 30 last year. He went on the 10-day injured list on June 10 with left abdominal strain, and then was ruled out for season on July 16 with right elbow injury.

Oh returned to South Korea in August to undergo an operation. He spent a big chunk of his 72-game ban rehabbing the elbow.

Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions stretches before practice at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on June 2, 2020. (Yonhap)


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