SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) -- Lim Chang-yong, an injured South Korean pitcher who signed with the Chicago Cubs last year, is eyeing a return to action later this summer, his agent said Thursday.
Lim, 36, has been rehabbing his surgically repaired right elbow in Mesa, Arizona, since February, about two months after signing a deal with the Major League Baseball (MLB) club. According to his agent, Park Yoo-hyun, Lim is throwing between 50 and 70 pitches on the mound, though not at full strength.
Park estimated that Lim could be ready for live action as early as mid-July.
"Lim has been doing well in the rehab program that the club has set up for him," Park said. "He could be back on the mound earlier than expected."
Lim had pitched the previous five seasons for the Yakult Swallows in the Central League of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan. He underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career in July last year to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow, and had been expected to remain shelved for at least the first half of 2013.
After signing with the Cubs, Lim repeatedly said his goal was to make the major league roster by mid-summer.
If Lim reaches the majors this year, he will be the third South Korean player in the big leagues in 2013, joining outfielder Choo Shin-soo of the Cincinnati Reds and pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers. All three players will be in the National League (NL) and in the case of Lim and Choo, in the same NL Central division.
The Cubs were reportedly interested in Lim for his unique, sidearm delivery and his ability to reach well over 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) on the radar gun.
Park said the Cubs may want to see Lim pitching in the minors around early August.
"The Cubs would rather have Lim join a minor league affiliate than stay at the rehab center," Park said. "Once he reaches a certain point in his rehab, Lim may begin traveling with minor league teams on different levels, from Single-A to Triple-A, to watch them play and also pitch in actual games himself."
The Cubs, who haven't won a World Series title since 1908, probably won't end their drought this year. Through Wednesday, Korean time, they were at 18-26, fourth among the five teams in the NL Central.
Before this season, the Cubs signed Kyuji Fujikawa, a Japanese right-hander who used to compete with Lim for the most saves in the NPB's Central League for the Hanshin Tigers. Fujikawa, though, has been on the disabled list since mid-April with a right forearm strain, after going 1-1 with two saves and a 6.75 ERA in 10 appearances.
If the Cubs remain out of contention later in the season, Lim could potentially join the big league club when the active roster expands from 25 players to 40 players on Sept. 1.
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