Ko Woo-suk (San Diego Padres), who has started preparing for his Major League debut season, expressed expectations for a meeting with veteran pitcher Yu Darvish, who wore the same uniform.
Ko left for the U.S. through Incheon International Airport on the 9th. After arriving in Seattle on DL 196, he will move back to Arizona and join the San Diego club for a simple physical test.
In an interview before leaving the country, Ko Woo-seok said, “I feel like I’m playing in the Major League a little bit now,” adding, “The most important thing for me is to enter the Major League roster.”
Ko Woo-seok signed a contract with San Diego on Jan. 4 and succeeded in advancing to the Major League. He signed a two-year contract with a total of $4.5 million (about 6 billion won). The salaries for 2024 and 2025 will be $1.75 million and $2.25 million, respectively, and if the option is implemented with the mutual consent of Ko and the San Diego club, Ko will receive $3 million in annual salary in 2026.
If the option is not implemented, Ko can become a free agent (FA) for a buyout amount of $500,000. The contract size will increase to up to $9.4 million if incentives are included between 2024 and 2026.
Born in 1998, Ko started his professional career by graduating from Chungam High School in 2017 and joining the LG Twins as the first pick. Until last year, he recorded 19 wins and 26 losses with 139 saves and six holds of 3.18 ERA in 354 games and 368 ⅓ innings in the first division.
He slowed down due to injury in the 2023 season with three wins and eight losses and 15 saves and an ERA of 3.68 in 44 innings in 44 games, but he has become the best closing pitcher in the KBO League with four wins and two losses and 42 saves and an ERA of 1.48 in 60 ⅔ innings in 61 games in the 2022 season. His ability to throw breaking balls is also cited as his strength from fastballs in the mid-150km range, high-speed sliders in the early-140km range, and big curves in the early-130km range.
San Diego has all the good conditions for Ko Woo-seok to settle in the Major League. In particular, the presence of infielder Kim Ha-sung, who has been reborn as a key San Diego player since becoming a big leaguer three years earlier than Ko Woo-seok, reassures Ko Woo-seok.
After the end of the 2020 season, Kim Ha-sung left the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO League through the posting system and entered San Diego. After becoming the starting pitcher of the San Diego Padres in the 2022 season, which was his second year in the big league, he won the National League Gold Glove Utility Player category in the 2023 season. As he became the first Asian infielder to win the Gold Glove, he has emerged as a recognized infielder not only in San Diego but also in the entire Major League.
Although the position is different from that of Ko Woo-suk, the fact that there is a Korean senior who can be with him during training as well as during games is expected to make Ko comfortable.
Ko Woo-seok also said, “I’m going to the United States, and I feel relieved that I know someone. I’m grateful just to have Kim Ha-sung in San Diego.”마카오토토도메인
Ko has become teammates not only with Kim Ha-sung but also with Japanese pitchers Yu Darvish and Yuki Matsui. In the case of Yu Darvish, Ko was a pitcher whom he longed for when he was a child to develop his dream of becoming a baseball player.
“(Yu Darvish and Yuki Matsui) were famous pitchers in Japan, too. As for Yu Darvish, he had a really successful career in the Major League,” Ko said. “I was one of the pitchers who dreamed of playing with Yu Darvish when I was an amateur.”
Born in 1986, Yu Darvish was selected by the Nippon-Ham Fighters as the No. 1 pick in the 2004 Japanese professional baseball rookie draft. From 2005 to 2011, he entered the Major League with a monstrous record of 93 wins, 38 losses, one save and an ERA of 1.99 in 167 games.
Yu Darvish made his big league debut as a Texas Rangers player in the 2012 season. With 16 wins and nine losses and an ERA of 3.90, he entered the U.S. in 29 games and became one of the top starting pitchers in the Major League. He displayed sharper pitching in the 2013 season. He recorded 13 wins and nine losses with an ERA of 2.83 in 32 games.
Yu Darvish was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, which was aiming to win the World Series during the 2017 season, and moved to the Chicago Cubs the following year. From the 2021 season, he is joining the San Diego Padres along with Kim Ha-sung. Until last year, he had 103-85 record and 3.59 ERA in 266 games in the Major League.
Yu Darvish is also familiar to Korean baseball fans. He played as a starting pitcher for the 2023 World Baseball Classic match against Korea held at Tokyo Dome in Japan in March last year, and engaged in a tug-of-war with Korean players.
Born in 1995, left-hander Yuki Matsui was the best closing pitcher of the Japanese pro baseball league. He joined the San Diego Padres this season on the condition that he pays a total of 28 million U.S. dollars for five years.
San Diego has a plan to fill the gap where Josh Hader, who was in charge of the team’s closure last year, moved to the Houston Astros with Yuki Matsui and Ko Woo-seok.
U.S. media in the U.S. are predicting that Yuki Matsui will be a likely closing pitcher for the San Diego Padres in the 2024 season. Ko is highly likely to play the role of setup man in the seventh and eighth innings.
Korean baseball fans got the opportunity to watch Kim Ha-sung and Ko Woo-suk, Yu Darvish and Yuki Matsui play at the same time in one game in Korea next month.
San Diego will play its official opening game of the 2024 season against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul from Mar. 20-21. The Major League Baseball’s secretariat is holding regular league openers around the world to globalize baseball. This year, Korea was chosen as the venue.