The sports world has been at a standstill for the better part of two months as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic.
But now, a glimmer of hope is coming from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). They are going to be starting up their season this week, and the 10-team league could give sports fans an oasis amid a desert of sports-less days.
Though KBO teams are only allowed to have three foreign players on their rosters, there are still a few notable connections to the Boston Red Sox. So, if you're looking for a team to support with KBO action starting this week, we've got a few players, and a couple of teams, to keep an eye on.
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Casey Kelly, Pitcher, LG Twins
Kelly was a first-round pick by the Red Sox during the 2008 MLB Draft. The 30th overall pick out of Sarasota, Fla. became one of the organization's top prospects after posting a sterling 1.12 ERA and a 6-1 record with the Greenville Drive in 2009.
The 2010 season wasn't as kind to Kelly, as he had his share of growing pains moving up to the next level. With the Portland Sea Dogs, he logged a 5.31 ERA and a 3-5 record. Following the season, he was one of the headliners in the package that the Red Sox gave the San Diego Padres in the ill-fated Adrian Gonzalez trade. Anthony Rizzo ended up being the best long-term player from that deal and Kelly fizzled out. He posted a 2-11 record and a 5.46 ERA while playing parts of four seasons for three different teams.
Kelly found success with the LG Twins last season and went 14-12 with a 2.55 ERA in 180 1/3 innings pitched. If you love redemption stories, you'll probably want to root for the 30-year-old's squad. And perhaps if Kelly pitches well again, he'll get one more chance to prove himself with an MLB organization.
Hee-Seop Choi, Hitting Coach, Kia Tigers
Here's a guy who you probably forgot about. Choi spent four seasons in the minor leagues with the Chicago Cubs and then made it to the majors in the early 2000s. He bounced around the NL and went from the Cubs to the Florida Marlins to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In L.A., he was a favorite of notable Sabermatician Paul DePodesta and got a chance to prove himself as a first baseman. He put up modest numbers but after DePodesta was fired in 2005, Choi was waived by the team.
That's when the Red Sox swooped in to pick him up. Choi spent the 2006 season in the Red Sox organization with their Triple-A affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox. He hit just .207 with eight home runs and decided to return to the KBO after the season. He played for the Tigers from 2007-15 and now serves as their hitting coach.
William Cuevas, Pitcher, KT Wiz
Cuevas spent almost the entirety of his MLB career with the Red Sox. He started with their Dominican Summer League program back in 2009 and eventually climbed the organizational ladder to make the team's 40-man roster in 2016. During his first season, he appeared in three games and logged a 3.60 ERA and struck out three batters in five innings.
After the season, Cuevas signed with the Detroit Tigers on a minor-league deal and appeared in just one major-league game in which he pitched 1/3 of an inning and gave up four earned runs. He didn't last with the team and joining the Miami Marlins for the rest of the season.
Cuevas would return to the Red Sox in 2018. He spent only a little bit of time on the major league roster and posted an 0–2 record and 7.41 ERA in nine appearances (one start). He struck out 20 batters in his 17 innings pitched. Since joining the KBO in 2019, he has been a solid starter and logged a 13-10 record and a 3.62 ERA in 30 starts (184 innings pitched).
The then-Nexen Heroes and the Red Sox used to have a working partnership back in 2014, as you can see via this tweet from Dan Kurtz.
Question for fellow KBO or MLB fans: Other than the LG Twins/Dodgers (1999) and Heroes/Red Sox (2014), what other KBO/MLB working agreements/partnerships do teams have?— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) April 13, 2020
I think there are others, I just can't remember them.
(maybe it can also help new fans pick a KBO team...) pic.twitter.com/R8bTxERUdC
So, if the Red Sox liked them enough to partner with them, perhaps fans will feel similarly and adopt the Heroes as their KBO team.
The Heroes recently had former Red Sox prospect Jerry Sands on the roster. Sands was acquired as part of the Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett salary-dump trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was later flipped as a part of the Brock Holt trade. Sands led the KBO in RBI during the 2019 season with 113 but now plays for the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball.
Dave Bush, Red Sox Pitching Coach, SK Wyverns
Bush has been a member of the Red Sox organization since 2016. And the 40-year-old is getting ready to kick off his first year as the pitching coach for the Sox having replaced Dana LeVangie after the Red Sox' starting rotation struggled in 2019.
Bush's connection to the KBO comes from his time with SK Wyverns. He spent the 2012 season with that club and went 4-6 for the team with a 4.43 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings pitched. If any of the current Red Sox watch any of the KBO action, Bush may be able to convince them to root for his former team.
So, while Bush may not have a current connection to the KBO, if you're a fan of Bush or expect that he was set to do great work with the team's pitching staff, feel free to root for SK Wyverns in the coming weeks.
Which KBO teams have Red Sox connections to root for originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston