Twins’ Park Byung-ho gets 1st MLB hit as three Koreans make season debuts

Park Byung-ho of the Minnesota Twins picked up his first Major League Baseball hit, as three South Koreans made their first appearances of the 2016 season Monday across the United States.

Batting sixth as the designated hitter, Park went 1-for-3 and scored a run in his big league debut against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. The O’s prevailed 3-2 with Matt Wieters’ walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth.

Park was called out on strikes against Baltimore starter Chris Tillman in his first at-bat in the top of the second. He fouled off a couple of four-seam fastballs but stood looking on an 87-mph slider on a 1-2 count.

The game was delayed by rain at the start and the sky opened up again in the second, forcing another delay before the top of the third.

The second delay chased Tillman from the game, after he’d struck out five batters in two innings. Then facing the new pitcher Tyler Wilson, Park lined a single up the middle for his first MLB hit in the top of the fifth.

Park was hit by a pitch in the top of the seventh with Mychal Givens on the mound. He moved to third on a double by Eduardo Escobar and scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Kurt Suzuki to make it a 2-2 ball game.

Park grounded out to short in the top ninth, and Wieters delivered the game-winning hit with two outs in the bottom of the inning.

Park told Yonhap News Agency afterward he wasn’t nervous before his big league debut, and he was satisfied with the way he swung the bat.

“I am pleased that I got the hit in the second at-bat,” he said. “But it’s disappointing that we lost the first game of the season. It would have been a better day if I’d reached base leading off the ninth inning. I was expecting a pitch up in the zone (from Baltimore closer Zach Britton) but ended up hitting a groundout. I was wrong to lose my patient swing at a 2-0 count (earlier in the at-bat).”

Baltimore’s rookie outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, coming off a miserable spring training, watched the game in the opposite dugout.

In the pregame player introductions, Kim was booed by some home fans, in light of the recent saga between the Korean outfielder and the management.

Kim batted just .178 without an extra-base hit in the Grapefruit League, prompting the front office to consider sending him down to the minors to start the season. After manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette openly pressured him to go down to Triple-A, Kim declined an assignment to the minors, as was his right in his contract, and forced the Orioles’ hands.

The O’s reluctantly kept Kim on their Opening Day roster — their only other option was to release him and eat up his US$7 million salary — but Joey Rickard, a Rule 5 Draft pick who batted .397 in spring, got the nod as the starting left fielder.

Rickard was 2-for-4 with a run scored in the ninth spot.

At Globe Life Park in Arlington, big league veteran Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers went 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI as Texas defeated the Seattle Mariners 3-2.

Choo reached on a fielder’s choice in the first inning and appeared to steal second base, only to be ordered back to first when Prince Fielder was called out on batter interference at the plate. After swinging and missing on a curveball, Fielder lost his balance and took a couple steps toward the home plate as catcher Chris Iannetta stood up to make the throw to second.

Choo flew out to left field his next time up in the third. In the bottom fifth with Texas trailing 2-0, Choo drew a bases-loaded walk against Felix Hernandez to pick up his first RBI of the season. It was Hernandez’s third free pass of the inning.

Choo struck out in the bottom of the seventh in his final at-bat.

From the other dugout, the Mariners first baseman Lee Dae-ho pinch-hit for Leonys Martin in the top of that inning with two men on board and one out, with the Mariners down 3-2. Facing starter Cole Hamels, Lee went down swinging on a 1-2 changeup in the dirt.

Lee didn’t stay in the game.

Left-handed hitting Adam Lind got the start at first base Monday. Lee, the right-handed batter signed on as backup to Lind, could make his first big league start Tuesday with Texas sending left-hander Martin Perez to the mound. (Yonhap)