Armed with a diminished fastball and mediocre ability, Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Seo Jae-weong struggled to avoid big league basts early in the season before being demoted to Triple-A. / Korea Times File
By Kang Seung-woo
Expanding Major League rosters have not helped South Koreans make it to the big leagues.
Major League Baseball (MLB) expanded each team's 25-man roster to 40 Saturday, but no Korean players were added to teams.
The number of South Koreans playing in the big leagues has been reduced to only one, pitcher Kim Byung-hyun of the Florida Marlins, after three - the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Seo Jae-weong and Ryu Jae-kuk, and Kim - started the season on MLB teams.
Seo, who signed a $1.2-million one-year contract with the Devil Rays last year, was named the second starter in Tampa Bay's rotation after lefty Scott Kazmir. But he was designated for assignment in June after compiling a 3-4 record with an 8.13 ERA.
Now, Seo pitches for the Durham Bulls in Triple-A, where the 30-year-old right-hander has compiled a 9-4 record with a 3.69 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). He's gone 4-1 in his past six outings, including a one-run seven-inning performance. During that stretch, the former New York Met has a 2.97 ERA in 40 1/3 innings. He was named the International League's Pitcher of the Week twice in July and captured Player of the Month honors the same month. Since the Durham Bulls - Tampa Bay's minor league affiliate - clinched the International League's South Division title, he's expected to pitch in the postseason.
``I will decide my future after the season,'' Seo said on the Web site minkiza.com. "Although I earn a low salary, I want to restart my career on a new team where I can try out for a starting spot."
He is 28-40 in his six-year MLB career with the Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Devil Rays.
South Korea's first Major Leaguer Park Chan-ho joined the Mets for $600,000 at the start of the season, hoping to resurrect his career. But the 113-game winner, who once signed a $65-million contract with the Texas Rangers, struggled during spring training.
Because of his rocky displays, the Mets sent him to the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. He was called up to the big leagues to start in place of an injured Orlando Hernandez on April 30 against Florida. But after giving up seven runs over four innings, he was released.
In June, Park agreed to a contract with the Houston Astros and now pitches in their minor league system for the Round Rock Express. He recently had two solid starts. Last week, he allowed one run in seven innings with 11 strikeouts. Then on Saturday, he lasted seven innings and allowed three runs on six hits, striking out nine. But that was not enough for the right-hander to return to the Major Leagues.
There are other Koreans playing in the minor leagues. Right-handed pitcher Kim Sun-woo is riding a five-game winning streak with the Fresno Grizzlies, one of the San Francisco Giants' minor league teams. The 30-year-old has an 8-7 record with a 4.84 ERA in 17 starts.
Ryu, 24, started the season in the Devil Rays' bullpen, but now plays for the Durham Bulls. He has accumulated a 5-4 record with a 4.04 ERA and is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his last six outings.
Choo Shin-soo is a position player in the Cleveland Indians' system. Choo, who recently came off the disabled list after suffering an elbow injury, has a batting average of .261 with two homers and 25 RBIs.
But none of these players earned spots on expanded Major League rosters.