Cho's second start full of firsts Red Sox rookie finds joy of strikeouts, pain of slam

Orioles sidelight

July 13, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

Boston Red Sox rookie pitcher Jin Ho Cho sat at his locker before his second major-league start yesterday against the Orioles. He sat there, staring at his locker quietly with a set of headphones on, attempting to alleviate all distractions.

And when Cho took the mound against the Orioles, the 22-year-old South Korean looked overwhelming, showing his quirky delivery and skills far beyond his age. He mixed a 94-mph fastball with a changeup and slider efficiently and used the corners as he struck out Roberto Alomar looking for his first major-league strikeout and then got Brady Anderson swinging. Cho went on to strike out five in the first three innings. Cho's success would be short-lived, however.

Cho, who is from Jun Ju City, South Korea, represents the latest Asian pitcher to come to the majors. Along with that come the high expectations that each bears. But Cho's previous experience speaks for itself, a former pitcher for the Korean national team and the Korean Olympic team in 1996, he was signed by the Red Sox in March.

In the minors, for Single-A Sarasota and Double-A Trenton, Cho had a combined 6-1 record with a 1.96 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 69 innings, earning a call up to the Red Sox on July 4. That day Cho made his major-league debut, allowing only one run in 6 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox. But Cho still suffered the loss in the 3-0 game.

"He is a rookie here," Red Sox manager Jimy Williams said. "But he's not really a rookie, he is an experienced pitcher. You can tell that when he takes the mound. He has a good arm and throws a lot of strikes."

But yesterday Cho showed the form of a rookie. After getting himself into a bases-loaded jam in the third, he gave Orioles right fielder Eric Davis two sliders low. Behind in the count, Cho countered with a fastball over the plate that Davis sent into the bullpen in left-center field for a grand slam.

After retiring three in a row in the fourth, Cho, now pitching with a 6-4 lead, got in trouble again in the fifth by walking the leadoff hitter, Mike Bordick. Alomar then doubled down the left-field line. Anderson then singled in Bordick and Davis hit a sacrifice fly, tying the game 6-6 and causing Williams to pull Cho with one man on. The Red Sox bullpen failed to prevent the inherited Cho runner from scoring and the Red Sox didn't regain the lead, leaving Cho with another tough-luck loss.

Williams said after the game that he thought Cho was hindered by the long inning when the Red Sox scored six runs to take the lead in the fifth.

"He threw the ball very well early," Williams said. "But I think that affected him. When he led off with a walk, I knew he wasn't pitching the same. If numbers indicate anything, you know he's a guy with good control."

As for Cho, he thought he was hurt yesterday because he was pitching against unfamiliar hitters.

"I knew a little bit about the Orioles because the pitching coach told me some about them," Cho said through an interpreter. "But I think it shows that I have to study the hitters better next time."

According to Davis, the Orioles were prepared for Cho.

"What gave us an advantage was that we were able to look at film," Davis said. "When you're facing a guy you don't know, you just hope that he leaves some balls that you can hit pretty well and he left some balls over the plate."

As for Cho, he just looks forward to his next start and another opportunity to learn.

"I have another chance," Cho said. "Sometimes things like this happen, when you think you are pitching good and then things happen and you don't win. I will just go out there next time and try again."

Pub Date: 7/13/98

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