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US Coach: Oh Has Major League Stuff

Posted March. 18, 2006 03:00,   


Oh Seung-hwan, the 24-year-old rookie who led his team to a Korean Series win as a closer last year, has become the talk of the town in the World Baseball Classic.

U.S. national team manager Buck Martinez spoke highly of Oh in an interview with the U.S. media. “The Korean team has many good relievers. Oh Seung-hwan in particular will be able to hold his own in the Major Leagues as a reliever,” he said.

Oh left a lasting impression when he took the mound against the U.S. on March 15. With two outs and runner on third, Oh ended the threat by getting Chipper Jones to ground out. Against Japan on March 16, Oh took the mound in the bottom of ninth with one out and runner on first and preserved the win by striking out the next two batters.

Michael Barrett of the Chicago Cubs thought he saw a 110mph (177kmph) fastball from Oh. In truth, Oh’s fastest pitch on that day was 90mph (145kmpmh), but the lively movement on his pitches was enough to fool batters.

Oh has hit 150kmph on the radar gun during the season. In a practice match between Samsung and Yokohama in February, Oh broke the bats of three Yokohama batters with cut fastballs.

Known as “Stone Buddha” and “Steel Nerves,” Oh enjoys dueling with opposing batters when he pitches, which is not a common trait among rookies. Neither are his 1.18 ERA, 10 wins and 16 saves.

Martinez also praised Team Korea’s left-handed pitchers. The former Toronto Blue Jays skipper said, “I think Major League scouts will start to focus more on left-handed pitchers from Korea,” mentioning Bong Jung-keun (Cincinnati Reds) and Goo Dae-sung (Hanhwa), and Jun Byung-doo (Kia).

Chang Jeon jeon@donga.com