Kuo joins Lions, chooses ’00’ to signify a ‘new beginning’

By Joseph Yeh ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Former Taiwanese Major League pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo (郭泓志) yesterday officially joined local professional team Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions (統一獅) with a record-high three-year contract plus incentives that is worth NT$40.8 million. The deal made the ex-Los Angeles Dodgers setup man the highest paid player in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League’s (CPBL, 中華職棒) 24-year history. Chen Chin-feng (陳金鋒), who in 2002 became the first Taiwanese player to play in Major League Baseball (MLB), joined a CPBL team with a three-year-contract worth NT$30 million in 2006. “I am really honored to be finally able to return to Taiwan to join the Lions,” Kuo said at a press conference in Taipei. As a southern Tainan-native, Kuo said it is a dream-come-true for him to join the Lions, a Tainan-based team. The left-handed hurler said he chooses to wear number “00” on his Lions uniform because joining CPBL is a new challenge for him and “00” signifies a new beginning and fresh start. Kuo, who is better-known as a reliever, said he is open to all kinds of challenge in the CPBL, meaning he could turn into a starting pitcher if the ball club needs him to do that. According to league rules, Kuo, however, will not be able to take part in the remaining games of this season. Kuo to Debut in Winter League

But he could make his debut in the CPBL’s winter league, which is scheduled to kick off this November. The 32-year-old was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers in 1999 following high school, and has spent the past decade pitching in the United States. Since his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 2005, Kuo has made 218 appearances over seven seasons in the Show and finished with a 13-17 record and 13 saves with a 3.73 ERA and 345 strikeouts. Kuo was one of the National League’s top relievers during 2008-10 with the Dodgers and earned an All-Star berth in 2010 when he posted a 1.20 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 60 innings. He is also the first Taiwanese player ever to play in MLB’s All Star Game and the first to hit a home run in the MLB even though he is a pitcher. Kuo signed a one-year non-guaranteed deal with the Seattle Mariners in February, but was released in March and then signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs in June 2012 but was released the next month.