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S. Korean pitcher Park joins Orix in Japanese baseball: agency
SEOUL, Dec. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korean baseball pitcher Park Chan-ho will join the Orix Buffaloes in the top Japanese league for 2011, after playing in Major League Baseball (MLB) for 17 seasons, his agency here announced Monday.

   The 37-year-old right hander has signed a one-year deal with the Osaka-based Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), his management company Team 61 said. Financial terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed. Park will discuss his future in more detail in a press conference scheduled for Tuesday, the agency said.

  
Park Chan-ho (Yonhap file photo)



In 1994, Park joined the Los Angeles Dodgers to become the first South Korean to play in the majors. He holds the record for the most victories in MLB by an Asian pitcher with 124. Park has pitched for seven clubs, most recently the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. Park went 124-98 with an earned run average (ERA) of 4.36 in 476 appearances.

   On the Buffaloes team, Park will be teammates with South Korean first baseman Lee Seung-yeop. Lee reached his two-year deal earlier this month after spending five seasons with Yomiuri Giants, also in the NPB.

   The two South Korean baseball stars have never played together for the same club in their careers. Park is considered one of the country's greatest pitchers ever. Lee holds the record for most home runs in a Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season with 56, set in 2003 as a member of the Samsung Lions. He won five most valuable player (MVP) awards in South Korea.

   Park became a free agent after the season but didn't generate much interest in the market. In his press conference here late last month, Park said about four major league clubs showed varying degrees of interest in him but added he hadn't heard anything specific. Park said at the time his priority was to remain in the majors but he was also open to possibilities of playing in South Korea or in Japan.

   Park went to the Dodgers after playing two seasons for Hanyang University in Seoul and has never played professionally in South Korea. He is the first South Korean player to move from the majors to the NPB.

   Park's departure leaves Choo Shin-soo, outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, as the only South Korean in the majors.

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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