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May 25, 2017

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Ex-Dodger Kuo signs minor league contract

Former Taiwanese Major League pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo (郭泓志) confirmed Friday that he had signed a contract with the minor-league San Diego Padres.

The 35-year-old veteran southpaw will continue his baseball career in this coming season in the U.S.

 "The offer is unexpected and not part of my plan," Kuo was quoted in a statement released by his agency in Taipei.

 "I cannot thank you enough and will continue to do my best in the spring training to see how far I can go this season," the lefty said.

 Kuo is scheduled to report to the team on Monday before joining the upcoming spring training session on March 1.

 The Tainan native was not offered a new contract during the offseason after his three-year deal expired with the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions (統一獅) of the local Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL, 中華職棒).

 Kuo came back to Taiwan from U.S. to join the Lions in 2013 with a record-high three-year contract worth NT$40.8 million. The deal made the ex-Los Angeles Dodgers setup man the highest paid player in CPBL history.

 Due to injuries, however, he spent most of the time in Lions' minor league team and did not play a game for the Lions in the past season.

 According to Kuo's agency, Kuo flew to the Fischer Institute in south Phoenix last month for training. The institute offers rehabilitation and training services to professional baseball players. The Padres sent scouts to watch Kuo's pitching and were satisfied with his performance before offering him the contract, it noted.

 Kuo, one of the most internationally famous Taiwanese pitchers, was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1999 following high school, and has spent the past decade pitching in the U.S. league.

 Since his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 2005, Kuo has made 218 appearances over seven seasons in the Show and finished with a 13-17 record and 13 saves with a 3.73 ERA and 345 strikeouts.

 Kuo was one of the National League's top relievers during 2008-10 with the Dodgers and earned an All-Star berth in 2010 when he posted a 1.20 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 60 innings.

 He is also the first Taiwanese player ever to play in MLB's All-Star Game and the first to hit a home run in the MLB even though he is a pitcher.

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