SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles introduced Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon to the local media this afternoon. Manager Buck Showalter, executive vice president Dan Duquette and agent Tad Hun Yo also attended.
Yoon will be the first Korean-born player for the Orioles.
Yo served as an interpreter for Yoon, who wore a suit for the occasion. Yoon later put on an Orioles jersey and cap and posed with Duquette and Showalter.
Here’s a sampling from the press conference:
Duquette on Yoon:
“He was the youngest starting pitcher on the market this year, 27 years old. He’s a nine-year veteran of professional baseball in Korea. He’s a three-time All-Star. He also won the Gold Glove. In 2011, he had the pitching Triple Crown. Lifetime, he’s got a 2.75 walk/strikeout ratio, but actually in the past three years, it’s 3.72/1, so he’s improved over the last three years, and that’s always a good standard if you will for players that are coming into major league baseball because now you know he has the pitches and he has good control of the pitches, and he can throw the ball where he wants to.”
“Upon his debut, he’ll be the first Korean pitcher for the O’s and wear No. 18, which I’m told is the ace number for international pitchers. This is part of our international recruiting strategy to be aggressive in all markets around the world and help the club be a perennial contender. The work that the club did with (Wei-Yin) Chen, the lefty pitcher we picked up a couple of years ago from Taiwan via Japan, will help us in terms of acclimating Yoon to our environment and getting comfortable here in the States.”
Duquette on how he views Yoon:
“He’s done virtually every job that you like in a pitching staff over the course of his career. He pitched as a starter and in relief in international competition. He pitched as the top pitcher in the league, and last year he was also a closer, so he has experience in each of those jobs. That will be determined by how he pitches, and Buck and his coaches will decide where he pitches based on how he pitches. If he pitches and gets them out, he’ll stay out there longer. But he’s trained in every area is the point, and he’s signed to a contract that rewards him for an extra workload as a starter.”
Yoon on his familiarity with the Orioles:
“I know about Cal Ripken, Jr. having the longest per-game streak continuously. I know about that. I’ve seen a lot of games. I’ve seen a lot of young talent on this team and I’m glad to be part of the team that’s so young and talented.”
Yoon on his shoulder injury last year:
“I started my season late. I started pitching in May. The reason I was pitching out of the bullpen was the manager of the team felt the closers on the team weren’t doing their job and he wanted the best pitcher on the team to close out the games so that the team could win, so that was the main reason I threw out of the bullpen.”
Duquette on Yoon’s shoulder:
“He had tendinitis last year during the season, according to our reports, and he’s worked on strengthening my shoulder since he came to the States, and he’s been here since November.”
Yoon on his biggest adjustment:
“You have the most elite players here in the United States in MLB, so I have to adjust to that. Pitching to the top hitters in the world. I don’t feel that I’ll succumb to that type of pressure. I know how I can pitch.”
Showalter on Yoon’s role:
“I think until we get our arms around him and get him on the field and see where he is physically and get to know him, we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. We know he has the capability of both. We’re not going to preclude him from doing anything. He’s obviously here to contribute and the question is going to be when and how. That’s what we’re looking at. Where that comes into play, if you ask me that in about 10 days, I think we’ll have a real good idea. I want to leave us some wiggle room to adjust to him as opposed to him adjusting to us.”
Yoon on when he realized that he wanted to pitch in the U.S.:
“I grew up watching Chan Ho Park pitch in the U.S. and I realized that was the league I wanted to pitch in. I worked hard to get to that goal, and now that I’m here, I’m very excited. But I also want the season to start right away because I’m so excited.”
Duquette on the international signings:
“We’re making good progress on the international market. Of course, Chen made an immediate contribution to the major league team and we hope that Yoon will be able to help us during the year. Beyond that, we signed some really good young players. Fred (Ferreira) signed some good players in the international market. Miguel Gonzalez came to us from the international market, so we’re making good progress there.
“The thing I want to point out about Yoon is, Yoon is a free agent, OK? He fulfilled his obligation in the KBO and came here as a free agent, and he deserves a lot of credit for his determination to pitch here in the major leagues because he could have pitched in other leagues. The 2013 season was not one of the top seasons of his career, but he still maintained that he wanted to pitch in the big leagues. He could have went back to Korea and had a better year and come back to us a year after, but he wanted to pitch in the big leagues. I think that his desire to pitch in the big leagues, there’s a lot to be said for that and he should really be commended for that.
“His repertoire is, he’s got a very good breaking pitch that he uses against both righties and lefties. He gets a lot of strikeouts with that. He’s got an excellent changeup that he uses vs. lefties, and very good command. He’s a similar repertoire to Miguel Gonzalez according to our scouting reports.”
Showalter on how teammates will ease Yoon’s transition:
“I have a lot of confidence in the culture of our guys. It starts with, you see the (international) flags up there. I wanted our guys to understand that we’re not in this world alone. There are other people in this world who can play this game as well, if not better, than us. We embrace anybody who can help us win and we think he has a chance to do that. I think we, whether it’s Nick Markakis and his background in Greece, we all have some background and our guys go out of their way to make their path easier. It’s something we talk about a lot.
“You put yourself in Henry Urrutia’s shoes, coming out of Cuba and being stuck in Haiti, and the next thing you know, he’s here. We were talking about today, this is Henry’s first real foray into spring training, big league camp. So you’re sympathetic, but you’re not empathetic. You try to make the transition as fast as possible. I think the mistake you make is if you try to make them adjust to you instead of you adjusting to him. Shame on you. I’m real confident in our guys.
“He’s got a great personality. We’ve done our homework. I think it’s going to be pretty seamless, but at the same time, we’ll have our radar up about things we can do. We’ve been fortunate to have really good interpreters who have kept us ahead of the game. We want to make his path easier and I think our players are good at that.”
Yoon on why he chose the Orioles:
“Obviously, I liked the terms of the contract. Dan was very gracious with the terms. And secondarily, the opportunity to start and try to compete for a starting position here with the Orioles.”
Yoon on how last couple of days have gone:
“When I arrived here I was really anxious to start practicing. I saw the facilities and saw how nice they were. The fact that I was able to go out there and practice today made me feel good. I’m really, really happy today.
“I’ve played here in the United States, including down in Port Charlotte, and the last three seasons I’ve been in Surprise, AZ with the Kia Tigers. I’ve been in the U.S. a lot. And every time I’ve been in the U.S. I don’t want to go back to Korea because the facilities here are so nice. I’m happy to be here and looking forward to the season.”
Duquette on the visa:
“We’re still working on that. That’s in process. We think we have a solution to that where he can go to Canada and return. So, we’re going to try to do it that way. But that’s still in process. We’re hoping to get that resolved in the next couple weeks.”
Yoon on how he feels about relieving:
“I’m reflecting a lot on the Kia Tigers and when I was 18 years old and the uncertainty surrounding that entrance. I’m approaching that in the same manner. I want to work hard, look good in front of the manager and pitch well so i have an opportunity to start.”
Yoon on why he left Korea:
“I had better offers in Korea to play in the KBO and stay there, but ever since I could have been posted two years ago, and now that I’m a free agent now, my determination to pitch in the U.S. hasn’t changed. In the MLB. That was the ultimate decision-maker. It wasn’t necessarily about the money, it was about the opportunity to be competitive and play in the best League in the world.”
Here’s an assortment of pictures and videos from Yoon’s introductory press conference:
Yoon and Showalter.
Yoon and Duquette.
Yoon and Orioles brass during introductory press conference.
Yoon being introduced.