Ex-Dodgers pitcher Kuo joins Taiwan team
Pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo, then of the Los Angeles Dodgers, throws a pitch on April 6, 2009 at Petco Park in San Diego, California.
Kuo, a left-handed pitcher formerly with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has signed a three-year contract with the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions worth Tw$40.8 million ($1.39 million), making him the highest-paid player in Taiwan, according to the team.
Kuo reported to the team on Saturday to join a practice at its base in the southern city of Tainan and is set to start pitching in the next season in March as the current season is near its end, the team said.
"I have faith in myself and my goal is to stay healthy and help the team win the final championship," Kuo told reporters at the stadium in Tainan.
Kuo, 32, will bear the number "00" on his jersey, which he said symbolises a brand new start for him after bidding farewell to a 14-year career in the United States.
His team and fans hope that Kuo will help give a boost to Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), which has been hit by a string of game-fixing and gambling scandals in recent years.
"We hope 'the Kuo wave' will help box offices for the CPBL and the Lions to continue to grow," said manager Su Tai-an, adding that ticket sales for Saturday's game doubled after Kuo signed up with the team.
Kuo was signed by the Dodgers in 1999 at age 17 but was sidelined due to elbow surgery before finally making his debut in the majors in September 2005.
In 2010, Kuo became the first Taiwanese player to become a Major League Baseball All-Star. Pitching in middle relief, he set a record by not giving up a hit to 36 consecutive left-handed batters.
He led Major League Baseball in that season with a 1.20 earned-run average over 56 games, setting a Dodgers team record in the process. He had 73 strikeouts and 18 walks in 60 innings with opposing batters hitting only .139.
However, Kuo struggled with his elbow injury in 2011 and had not appeared in any Major League games since undergoing a fifth operation in October. He became a free agent by the end of that year when the Dodgers declined to tender him a contract.
Most recently Kuo played for Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic in March.
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