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KBO's career saves leader returns home with scoreless outing

All News 22:08 June 09, 2020

DAEGU, June 9 (Yonhap) -- Oh Seung-hwan, the all-time saves leader in South Korean baseball, made his long-awaited return to home soil on Tuesday with one inning of relief work.

Oh pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Samsung Lions in their 5-3 loss to the Kiwoom Heroes at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. It was Oh's first Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) appearance since Oct. 2, 2013, a span of 2,442 days.

The 37-year-old right-hander pitched 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 Colorado Rockies, the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions pitches against the Kiwoom Heroes in the top of the eighth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on June 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

Not counting spring training games with the Lions, Oh's last competitive game anywhere came with the Rockies on May 30 last year. Oh went on the 10-day injured list on June 10 with a left abdominal strain and then was ruled out for the season on July 16 with a right elbow injury.

Oh returned to South Korea in August to undergo an operation. He spent a big chunk of his 72-game ban, issued in 2016 following his overseas gambling conviction, rehabbing the elbow.

Oh was activated for Tuesday's game. His manager Huh Sam-young had earlier said he would ease Oh back into action and would try to use him with a comfortbale lead. But with the Lions trailing 4-3 in the eighth, Huh summoned the veteran pitcher trying to keep it a one-run deficit.

Park Jun-tae, the Heroes' No. 7 hitter, greeted Oh by jumping on a first-pitch fastball for a double to right field. Park moved to third on a sacrifice bunt.

The Heroes failed to cash in against Oh, though. Kim Kyu-min grounded out to first, not enough to bring Park home from third. Oh walked Seo Geon-chang to put runners at the corners for the dangerous Kim Ha-seong, who swung on the first pitch and popped out to catcher.

Oh threw 10 pitches, eight of them his signature heavy fastballs. He touched 146 kilometers per hour (90.7 miles per hour).

Oh did his job, but left-handed reliever No Sung-ho gave up a run in the top ninth to give the Heroes some breathing room at 5-3.

The Lions tried to rally against Kiwoom closer Cho Sang-woo. But Lee Sung-gyu's leadoff single was erased in a 4-6-3 double play. Kim Ji-chan drew a two-out walk and Koo Ja-wook followed up with a single to have runners at the corners for Tyler Saladino, who struck out swinging on four pitches.

Oh, who compiled 277 saves during his first KBO stint, is expected to take over as closer soon.

Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions pitches against the Kiwoom Heroes in the top of the eighth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on June 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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