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KBO club manager 'relieved' to meet American pitchers in camp

All News 15:26 February 16, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 16 (Yonhap) -- It's one thing to talk to people on a video chat. It's quite another to meet them in person.

Kiwoom Heroes' manager Hong Won-ki learned that Tuesday, when he met with his new pitcher, Josh A. Smith, for the first time.

This file photo from Feb. 1, 2021, shows Kiwoom Heroes' manager Hong Won-ki at the start of spring training at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Smith and another American pitcher of the club, Eric Jokisch, were released from their mandatory, 14-day quarantine at noon Tuesday. They reported to the Heroes' camp at Gocheok Sky Dome right away, 15 days after the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) set up shop at the only domed stadium in the league.

Jokisch is entering his third season, and Hong, who had been on the Heroes' coaching staff for over a decade before taking the managerial reins, is already familiar with the left-hander. Smith, a former major league pitcher, signed with the Heroes in December.

Upon seeing Smith for the first time, Hong said he felt a sense of relief more than anything.

"I got to talk to him on a video chat on his first day in Korea, and I'd been getting reports on his training (during the quarantine)," Hong told reporters at the dome. "Now that I finally got to meet him and shake his hand, it finally feels like he's part of the team now."

In this Getty Images file photo from Aug. 22, 2020, Josh A. Smith of the Miami Marlins pitches against the Washington Nationals in the bottom of the second inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Nationals Park in Washington. (Yonhap)

Over his major league career spent with four clubs, Smith had a 6-12 record with a 5.60 ERA in 101 games, including 12 starts.

While Jokisch has already proven his chops in the KBO -- he leads all pitchers with a 2.67 ERA over the past two seasons combined -- Smith remains an unknown commodity.

Hong admitted he hasn't seen much of Smith even in video, with few resources available for the scouting department. Again, the skipper will have to wait for in-person viewing.

"I'll have to see him go up against hitters during practice and exhibition games," Hong said. "I expect him to be a good pitcher for our club."

Though Smith and Jokisch are both behind other pitchers in their preparation, they should have no problem being ready for the start of the regular season on April 3, Hong said.

The manager said the two pitchers are scheduled to throw living batting practices on Feb. 27. They were scheduled to play some catch Tuesday.

In this file photo from Oct. 30, 2020, Eric Jokisch of the Kiwoom Heroes pitches against the Doosan Bears in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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