South Korean slugger Park looks to rebound following rough 1st year

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, February 25, 2017

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Byung Ho Park reported to Minnesota a year ago with a $12 million, four-year contract after the Twins agreed to pay $12.85 million to his South Korean club.

After hitting .191 with 12 homers, 24 RBIs and 80 strikeouts in 62 games as a rookie and getting demoted to Triple-A on July 1, he is not even on the 40-man roster at spring training this year.

“Simply said, there’s no excuse,” the 30-year-old slugger through a translator. “I didn’t play well. That’s why I struggled, but I’m ready for the season.”

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Park had 210 home runs and 604 RBIs over 868 games during nine seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization for the LG Twins and Nexen Heroes. But his 2016 struggles extended even to the minor leaguers: He hit .224 with 10 homers and 19 RBIs in 31 at Triple-A Rochester before surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his right wrist. He was sent outright to Rochester during the offseason.

“I think the newness last year was tough,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I think it’s going to be fun to see how much change there is and his ability to play the game and trust what he does. There were times last year he was trying to hit pitches he couldn’t hit. We have to get him to trust, to go back to his strengths.”

Park’s struggles were followed heavily in his native country, where he faced inquiries from people during the offseason.

“When I went back to Korea, I tried to be quiet, but a lot of people still asked,” he said.

Despite being shipped to minors, he’s determined to show he’s ready to rebound.

“It’s the team’s decision how they’re going to make the roster, but I’m going to try my best to get back on the roster and play a better game,” he said.

Feeling more relaxed this spring training, he knows he has to have a very good camp to have any shot at making the opening-day roster.

“Last year, because it was the first year, I didn’t have any idea of what was going on,” he said. “This year, I’m more comfortable and I’m preparing for the season in my own way.”

Notes: Molitor said 1B Joe Mauer wouldn’t play his first game until Wednesday. “I’m not in a hurry to get him out there, seeing March 1 still gives him 33 days,” Molitor said. “It’s trying to do the right thing with a long spring.” . The manager also said 3B Miguel Sano “seems comfortable” in his full-time move to the position after the team experimented with him in right field last year. . Retired Twins star Torii Hunter was still working with a pair of young hitters in a cage nearly an hour after workouts ended.