SARASOTA, Fla. — After dealing with a month of uncertainty, a new team on a new continent, and plenty of work visa-related hoops to jump through, Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon finally made his Orioles debut Saturday afternoon.
It lasted 11 pitches.
“I knew I'd be nervous, but I pitched nine years in Korea, so overall I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be,” said Yoon, who signed a three-year, $5.75 million deal in mid-February but couldn’t pitch stateside until securing his work visa in Canada this week. “I waited a long time to throw, so overall, I'm relieved. I've been working hard for this day to come.”
Yoon’s first pitch was clocked at 91 mph on the stadium radar gun, whose recordings always seem a little exaggerated, but it gave Yoon some confidence.
“I was amped,” he said through interpreter Justin Yoon. “I honestly thought I was going to throw about 88, but once I saw the 91, I felt good.”
His second pitch was smacked for a single by New York Yankees farmhand Ramon Flores. Yoon then induced two fly balls and a groundout. The 27-year-old threw only three balls in the outing, an eventual 2-1 Orioles win.
“He didn’t look nervous at all to me. He looked like he had done it a million times,” Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph said. “Now I can’t tell you if he really was or not, but he showed a lot of composure out there. Even after he gave up the first hit, he kept pounding the zone, hitting his spots.”
Yoon says he thinks he is about 20 days away from reaching “midseason form.” Yoon is expected to start at Triple-A Norfolk, but the club believes he has the pitching arsenal and composure to help the big league staff this year.
Asked when Yoon will be game-ready, Showalter said: “First of all, he would know. As much as he’s pitched, they know when they’re right and they’re not. We’re familiarizing ourselves with him, too. If I had to go with an educated guess, I’d go with what he told you.”
Showalter said he liked the composure Yoon showed, especially given the circumstances.
“You know there’s a lot of emotion flying around there,” he said. “I thought he presented himself well the first time out. Think about the whirlwind he’s had in his life the last two months.”