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May 27, 2017

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Ex-White Sox pitcher Garcia joins EDA Rhinos

TAIPEI -- Freddy Garcia joined Taiwan's EDA Rhinos Sunday, becoming the island's best known pitcher with a US Major League background, as the scandal-hit local baseball league seeks big names to bring back fans.

Venezuela-born Garcia, 37, signed baseballs for fans who greeted him on arrival at Kaohsiung, the city where the Rhinos are based.

"Aside from a boost for our pitchers, we hope he will help inspire more fans, not only for the Rhinos but for the whole league," said a team official.

Under his contract which lasts till November, Garcia could take home up to $56,000 per month depending on his performance, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Garcia had 156 wins and 108 losses during his 15 seasons with MLB, with a 4.15 earned run average.

He was the starter in game 4 of the 2005 World Series for the Chicago White Sox, pitching seven scoreless innings and helping the team win the game and the World Series.

In 2006 he finished the season with 17-9 with a 4.53 ERA. Since then, he had played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets and New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. He became a free agent in March.

Many disillusioned baseball supporters boycotted stadiums in recent years following a series of gambling scandals implicating coaches and players.

Attendance plummeted to an average of 2,432 in 2012, compared to a peak of 7,000 in the late 1990s.

But the arrival of former Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, who joined the EDA Rhinos last year, helped bring back the fans.

Interest was also heightened by the national team's performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, when Taiwan progressed into the second round for its best-ever showing in the contest.

The EDA Rhinos drew an average of 6,848 fans last year, the highest in the four-member league where attendance averaged 6,079.

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