(ATTN: ADDS manager's comments in last 5 paras)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean baseball club Kiwoom Heroes announced Thursday they've reacquired pitcher Jake Brigham.
Brigham had pitched for the Seoul-based Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club from 2017 to 2020, before signing with the Wei Chuan Dragons of the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL). The American right-hander had gone 3-1 with a 0.63 ERA in five starts in Taiwan.
The Heroes said Brigham will make US$480,000 for the rest of this season, with another $50,000 up for grabs in incentives. He went 43-23 with a 3.70 ERA in 104 games for the Heroes in his first tour of duty.
To make room for the familiar face, the Heroes waived right-hander Josh A. Smith after two starts.
Smith went 1-0 with a 6.30 ERA across 10 innings in his first KBO season. He earned that lone victory on Tuesday against the LG Twins, holding them to two runs on three hits in seven innings. Smith had give up five runs in three innings against the Kia Tigers in his season debut on April 7.
Smith was pitching on a one-year deal worth $500,000, and he could have made another $100,000 in incentives.
The Heroes said they felt they needed "a more competitive foreign pitcher" to accomplish their goal for the season. They entered Thursday's action at 5-5, tied for fourth place among 10 clubs.
The Heroes added that their scouts had been following Brigham's season in the CPBL closely, and they had been impressed with his fastball velocity and movements of his two-seamer and slider.
Brigham dealt with some elbow problems last year with the Heroes, but the club said the pitcher appears to have put those issues behind him.
"We hope he'll once again be the ace that he had been over the past four years," the club said.
Brigham will pitch for the Dragons for the rest of this month and arrive in South Korea on May 2. He'll serve his two-week quarantine before rejoining the Heroes.
Kiwoom manager Hong Won-ki said before Thursday's game against the Twins that the club needed to pull a quick trigger to ensure a long-term success for the rest of the season.
"Smith won his second start but he gave up a lot of deep flies to the outfield. He was lucky to win that game," Hong said. "We decided he wouldn't be able to improve his command, velocity and groundball rate."
Hong said the team had concerns about the same issues with Smith during spring training, and they decided to make the switch when the pitcher didn't make any noticeable improvements.
On bringing back Brigham, Hong noted that the Heroes had let him walk last offseason because of injury concerns, but now they're convinced he'll be able to stay healthy for the rest of the sesaon.
"He is now inducing groundballs at about the same rate as his best season here in 2018," Hong said. "We don't feel like we've signed just another foreign player. We are bringing in a Heroes player. Brigham has always had good rapport with Korean pitchers, and I think he'll have extra motivation now to do well after dealing with injuries last year."
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