When Mike Elias took charge of the Orioles in November 2018, he promised an elite talent pipeline at Camden Yards.
With the major league season put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic, it seems that the Orioles’ most operational pipeline is their former pitchers finding greener pastures in Korea.
The Korea Baseball Organization opens play overnight Tuesday, with games to be broadcast periodically on ESPN to help fans who are longing for baseball.
Depending on perspective, it could provide some nice reunions with former Orioles who now ply their trade overseas, or bring back painful memories of what caused some of these players to wash out of the big leagues entirely.
Here’s a rundown of who Orioles fans might encounter should they tune into a KBO game this season:
Hyun Soo Kim, LG Twins
The former Orioles outfielder, who overcame a brutal transition period upon his arrival in the spring of 2016 to be a productive member of the organization’s last playoff team, achieved cult popularity status during his year-plus with the Orioles.
On a team full of free-swingers, Kim was a line-drive hitter who could work a count. He also became a popular clubhouse presence, with teammates noting his sense of humor even with a language barrier.
In 2017, the emergence of Trey Mancini as an outfielder instead of a first baseman shifted Kim out of a regular role, and he was traded in July to the Philadelphia Phillies for starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson before returning to Korea after the 2018 season.
Tyler Wilson, LG Twins
Kim wasn’t alone in signing on with LG Twins that offseason; so too did Wilson after he elected free agency after the 2017 season.
Wilson debuted with the Orioles in 2015 and had a 3.50 ERA in nine appearances, then earned a spot in the rotation out of spring training in 2016. He ended that year with a 5.27 ERA, was in and out of the rotation, and shuffled between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk. Wilson failed to establish himself in 2017 amid more roster shuffling and pitched in nine big league games before he was outrighted off the roster late in the season.
He’s been quite effective in two seasons with the Twins, going 23-11 with a 2.99 ERA.
Mike Wright, NC Dinos
Like Wilson, Wright debuted in 2015 and spent the better part of three years bouncing between possible major league rotation piece and minor league shuttle rider. Their paths were almost identical, though they diverged some when Wilson was outrighted and Wright remained on the roster entering the 2018 season, when he was out of minor league options.
Wright spent all of 2018 with the Orioles and made 10 appearances in 2019 before the new front office and coaching staff designated him for assignment a month into the season. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners on April 24, leaving the Orioles with 6.00 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP in 110 appearances.
He never truly caught on with the Mariners before making the move to the KBO this offseason.
Dan Straily, Lotte Giants
Wright got plenty of chances to stick with the Orioles. Straily, who was signed as a free agent a week into the 2019 season, had a much shorter leash. He debuted ignominiously by allowing five runs and recording four outs in relief during his first Orioles appearance, then proceeded to allow 31 runs in 33⅓ innings over eight starts.
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Straily lasted five more relief outings before being outrighted off the roster having allowed 22 home runs in 47⅔ big league innings. The Orioles dealt him to the Phillies at the July 31 deadline, long after Straily had been banished to the minors.
Aaron Brooks, Kia Tigers
Brooks joined the Orioles as a waiver claim not long after Straily went off the roster and had his moments as an effective starter and reliever. He certainly left a strong impression by pitching seven innings of one-run relief behind opener Richard Bleier on Sept. 20, and ended the season with a 5.65 ERA.
But instead of fight for a job on the Orioles’ staff in spring training, Brooks opted for the security of a KBO contract.
Suk-min Yoon, Kia Tigers
Yoon was signed out of Korea for the 2014 season but never actually appeared for the Orioles, spending all of that season at Norfolk and recording a 5.74 ERA there. He was allowed to return to Korea the following spring, with the remaining two years of his contract voided, and went right back to being an effective pitcher in the KBO.
Odrisamer Despaigne, KT Wiz
Despaigne represented a piece of pitching depth for the Orioles when he was acquired ahead of the 2016 season. He ended up making just 16 relief appearances with a 5.60 ERA before he was lost on waivers to the Miami Marlins that September.