By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- The Samsung Lions, the two-time defending South Korean baseball champions, announced on Friday they have signed former big league pitcher Esmailin Caridad.
The right-hander will be the new foreign pitcher for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club and is signed for the rest of this season at US$120,000, with no signing bonus.
On Wednesday, the last day to waive foreign players in the KBO, the Lions released the struggling right-hander Aneury Rodriguez.
KBO teams are each allowed to carry two foreign players, though the NC Dinos, an expansion club that joined the league this year, are permitted three foreigners for their first two seasons. Rick van den Hurk is the other foreign player for the Lions.
Ryu Joong-il, the manager of the Lions, surprised reporters and even some front-office employees on Thursday with his announcement that Caridad had been in South Korea since last Friday and had been pitching in the Lions' minor league facility.
Ryu said Caridad can hit 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) with his fastball, and the Dominican Republic native was on the Lions' wish list of four or five other players.
Caridad made 22 appearances in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Chicago Cubs in 2009 and 2010, going 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in 23 1/3 innings. All 22 appearances came in relief.
He has been pitching for the Iowa Cubs, the big league Cubs' Triple-A affiliate in the minors, since 2011. This year, Caridad has gone 3-3 in 16 relief appearances with a 5.02 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. He has struck out 24 and walked 18.
Before Friday's games, the Lions were in first place among nine clubs at 46-28 with two ties, 1.5 games ahead of the LG Twins. The Lions have played in each of the past three Korean Series and won the last two.
The Haitai Tigers, currently the Kia Tigers, remain the only KBO club to win at least three straight championships. They were the league champions from 1986 to 1989.
Under the KBO rules, new foreign players must join the KBO by Aug. 15 to be eligible for the playoffs.
All foreign players in the league this year are pitchers.
Also on Wednesday, the Tigers sent pitcher Anthony Lerew home and are looking for his replacement. Team officials said one of their scouts left South Korea three weeks ago in search of a new foreign player, likely a pitcher.