After a pair of impressive long-relief appearances, left-hander Hyeon-Jong Yang will make his first major-league start on Wednesday night for the Texas Rangers against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
Yang will take the spot of Kohei Arihara, who had an injection in the middle finger on his right hand to relieve pain under a callus. Although it will be his MLB starting debut, the 33-year-old Yang won 147 games during his 14-year career with the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization. He was the 2017 MVP in the KBO when he went 20-6 with a 3.44 ERA in 31 starts and also garnered Korean Series MVP honors that season.
Yang (0-0, 2.08 ERA) has allowed six hits and two earned runs over 8 2/3 innings in two relief stints, including no runs on one hit in 4 1/3 innings in relief of Arihara in a 6-1 loss to Boston on Friday night. He threw just 51 pitches, 36 for strikes.
“We’ve all been impressed,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “That team was feeling pretty good at that point; they had scored six in a short amount of time and hit a bunch of homers.”
Yang signed a minor-league contract with the Rangers on Feb. 12 and didn’t make the opening-day roster but traveled with the team on the taxi squad. He made his MLB debut in a 9-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on April 26, allowing two runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings.
“I wanted to show who I am to the people in the United States, so I’ve been trying really hard to get on the mound,” Yang told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I wanted to show fans and the team who I am and what I can offer the team.”
So far, so good.
“He’s 33 years old,” Woodward said. “He’s been pitching a long time. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything on the field.”
Yang will be opposed by Twins left-hander Lewis Thorpe (0-0, 3.60), who will making the fifth start of his career and second of the season. Thorpe, who never has faced Texas in 21 career appearances, started a 10-3 loss to the Angels in Anaheim on April 16 and allowed two runs on three hits over four innings. He walked one and struck out two.
Wednesday night’s game will be the third of a four-game series. Minnesota won the opener on Monday, 6-5, but Texas rallied for a 6-3 win in 10 innings on Tuesday night, scoring two runs in the ninth to tie it and then scoring three runs, including a two-run homer by Adolis Garcia, in the 10th to win it.
Minnesota dropped to 0-6 in extra-inning games this season.
“Any loss like this is tough, but when you have a bunch of them in the first month to start the year, it’s especially hard,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’ve played a lot of games where we’re playing winning baseball, we’re going into the last inning or two ahead, sometimes well ahead, and we haven’t been able to win those ballgames.
“We have to win those ballgames,” Baldelli added. “We’ve got to find a way to make it happen in these late-inning situations and find a way to win these games.”
–Field Level Media