Phils make it official with Park signing

Phils make it official with Park signing

When Chan Ho Park was playing for the Dodgers in 2008, he did everything in his power to ensure that the Phillies wouldn't advance to the World Series while pitching against them in the National League Championship Series

But -- as the old saying goes -- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Park -- who appeared in four games while Los Angeles lost to Philadelphia, 4-1, in the NLCS -- did just that when he flew in from his native South Korea to his new home in Philly, took his physical, signed on the dotted line of a one-year, $2.5 million contract and received his No. 61 Phillies jersey.

Now, after struggling to get past them in '08, he'll try to help the Phillies be the first repeat champion since the 2000 Yankees.

"It was enjoyable watching the Phillies win the World Series, and it's an honor to be with this team," Park, whose signing was officially announced by the Phillies on Tuesday, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "One of the things I like about this team is it is championship caliber. I'd like to help the team get in the World Series again."

Park's signing announcement -- after he agreed to terms in mid-December -- came on a day when the Phillies found out one of their top relievers, J.C. Romero, would be suspended the first 50 games of the '09 season after testing positive under Major League's Baseball's Drug Policy for an over-the-counter substance.

When pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla., on Feb. 14, Park will compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation with J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Kendrick.

But if that doesn't work out, he'll likely serve as a spot starter and a new addition to a bullpen that, after posting the NL's best ERA last season, just got a bit needier.

"In Chan Ho, we've acquired a veteran guy who can pitch in either a starting role or as a reliever," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a press release. "He will come to Spring Training and be given every opportunity for a spot in the starting rotation."

But make no mistake about it. Park, who started 280 of his 378 career games, wants a spot in the rotation.

"My goal is to be a starter," he said. "That's how I am going to compete. Hopefully, I can make it.

"Starting is better and more fun. Every five days, people in Korea plan on watching the game. That's a big part of the game at this point in my career."

Park told the Inquirer that five teams were interested in his services, but the Phillies were the only team that told him he had a chance to start. The Dodgers, he said, never made an effort to re-sign him.

Hot Stove
Park, signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1994, averaged 15 wins per season over a five-year span, from 1997-2001. Throughout his 15-year career, he is a combined 117-92 with a 4.34 ERA. The 35-year-old went 4-4 with a 3.40 ERA and two saves in 54 games -- five starts -- for the Dodgers in '08, posting a 2.16 ERA as a starter.

But after a 2007 in which he spent almost the entire season in the Minor Leagues, Park almost called it quits before '08 even began.

"I talked to my family [about it]," said Park, who told the Inquirer he is unsure whether or not he'll pitch for Korea in the World Baseball Classic this spring. "The whole country [Korea] doesn't want me to quit. It was a big challenge coming back, and I wanted to sign with the Dodgers because I had a lot of memories there. They were the team I started with.

"I made [the team], then pitched well. It was a special year."

Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.