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Kaohsiung, March 13 (CNA) Former MLB star Manny Ramirez began training with the players of the EDA Rhinos in Kaohsiung on Wednesday, a day after signing a one-year contract with the team.

Ramirez was introduced to his Rhinos teammates by manager Hsu Sheng-ming and was reunited with Hu Chin-lung, his teammate with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2008 to 2010.

He then swatted a few home runs in batting practice off pitches thrown by Hsu after having trouble getting acclimating to the team’s mechanical pitching machine.

Ramirez said he felt OK after the workout and expected to gradually round into peak form.

He will not be able to play in any of the team’s pre-season exhibition games because his work permit is still being processed, Hsu said, but the manager expected the permit to be approved by the Rhinos’ first regular season home game on March 27.

Hsu said the Rhinos, one of four teams in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League, did not sign Ramirez just to help the team win and boost ticket sales but also to help raise the league’s quality and attract higher caliber foreign players to the country.

The 40-year-old Ramirez signed a one-year contract with the team that reportedly will pay him between NT$750,000 (US$25,000) and NT$800,000 a month.

Ramirez, who began in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians in late 1993, slugged 555 home runs in the majors, ranking 14th all-time, and hit .312 for his career.

He was also named the World Series MVP after leading the Boston Red Sox in 2004 to their first championship since 1918.

His career was overshadowed, however, by two suspensions for using performance-enhancing drugs. He was suspended twice after failing to pass drug tests in 2009 and 2011.

Ramirez arrived Monday evening amid renewed enthusiasm for the sport in Taiwan, following Taiwan’s best run ever in the World Baseball Classic.

As many as 15.54 percent of all households with cable tuned in to Taiwan’s game against Japan on March 8, according to a user lab under the Institute for Information Industry and the Cloud and Connect TV Forum, based on information provided by two domestic cable operators.

The rating, reported Wednesday, was considered to be exceptionally high in a country where the media market is highly segmented.

(By Lin Hung-han, Cheng Che-fon, Chung Jung-feng and Jamie Wang)

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Korea wins game, but Chinese Taipei advances

TAICHUNG, Taiwan — Korea defeated Chinese Taipei, 3-2, in a hotly contested first-round game, but its journey in the 2013 World Baseball Classic ended after it lost a tiebreaker.  Chinese Taipei and the Kingdom of the Netherlands will now go on to play in the second round in Tokyo.

Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Korea were tied with two wins each after Tuesday’s games in Pool B in Taichung. According to the official rule, the tie is broken based on head-to-head records or by ranking each team’s Team Quality Balance (TQB). Based on TQB, Chinese Taipei emerged as the group leader, with the Netherlands taking second place.

TQB is the sum of runs scored divided by the number of innings played on offense, minus the number of runs allowed, divided by the number of innings played on defense. For purposes of determining TQB, only the scores from the games between the tied teams are to be used in the calculation.

It was a surprise that Korea, which reached the semifinal in the first Classic in 2006 and claimed second place in the 2009 event, did not qualify for the second round.

Chinese Taipei scored one run in both the third and fourth innings, then the game remained 2-0 in Taipei’s favor until the eighth, when Korea overturned the game with three runs, including a two-run homer.

In the bottom of the eighth, former Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Hung-Chih Kuo took over on the mound for Chinese Taipei. Kuo allowed a ground-rule double to Seung Yuop Lee.

Kuo seemed to have the situation under control after striking out Hyun-Soo Kim and inducing a lineout by Jun-Woo Jeon, but Jung-Ho Kang clubbed a two-run homer to put Korea up for good.

Korea needed to win by five runs or more against Chinese Taipei to advance, but was unable to do so. Since it was ahead, it forfeited its turn at bat in the ninth inning.

For Chinese Taipei, its two runs came about on superior baserunning and hitting by Dai-Kang Yang of Japan’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Yang led off the third inning with a single. Two outs later, Chih-Sheng Lin singled on a line drive to center. Jeon fumbled the ball, allowing the speedy Yang to score from first.

Yang was also the driving force behind Chinese Taipei’s run in the fourth inning. Yen-Wen Kuo hit a two-out double to right field, then Yang singled him home.

In this tight contest, both sides missed some good opportunities to score.

In the top of the second, Korean starter Woo-Jun Chang walked Chinese Taipei’s Szu-Chi Chou to open the inning. After a flyout, Chien-Ming Chang singled on a line drive to third, pushing Chou to second. However, Korea induced a flyout and a groundout to leave the game scoreless.

In the bottom of the third, Korea was unable to exploit shaky pitching by Taiwanese starter Yao-Hsun Yang. After two outs, Yang hit Yong-Kyu Lee with a pitch and walked Keun-Woo Jeong. After sustaining a minor finger injury, Yang then was replaced by Ching-Ming Wang, who got Seung-Yuop Lee to pop out to end the inning.

Korea similarly missed a chance in the fourth inning. After one out, Kim and Jeon hit consecutive singles. After a groundout, Min-Ho Kang walked to load the bases with two outs. But pinch-hitter Tae-Kyun Kim flied out to end the frame.

The strong defense of Taiwanese catcher Kao helped prevent Korea from scoring in the fifth. Jeong reached first on a fielding error, then attempted to score on a two-out single to center from Dae-Ho Lee. Center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin got the ball to second baseman Yen-Wen Kuo, who relayed it home, and Kao blocked the plate successfully.

The victory went to Korean reliever Won-Sam Jang, while Hung-Chih Kuo took the loss in front of a sellout crowd of 23,431.

Chinese Taipei began the first round by topping Australia, 4-1, and then conquered the Netherlands, 8-3, while allowing just a single hit.

Dai-Kang Yang was named Most Valuable Player of the first round. In addition to his outstanding performance against Korea, he scored the first run for Chinese Taipei against Australia and ripped a two-run homer against the Netherlands.

Chinese Taipei manager Chang-Heng Hsieh showed appreciation for his team moving on, but he acknowledged imperfections in the loss against Korea.

“Our players have worked hard to give their best in the three games in the first round,” Hsieh said. “I would like to thank my team and hope that we will continue to perform well next.”

“However, there are some regrets after tonight’s game,” he added. “Korea is a tough opponent … we have not done well against them in recent years. We will continue to improve ourselves, and hopefully one day we can surpass other strong teams in international competitions.”

On the other hand, Korea tripped in the first game of the tournament, when it was blanked, 5-0, by the Dutch squad. It recovered somewhat when it toppled Australia, 6-0, but its power hitters began to get going too late against Taipei.

Korean manager Joong-Il Ryu apologized to fans for the team’s failure.

“I am very disappointed by the outcome,” Ryu said. “We reached the semifinal in the first Classic and final in the second, yet this time, we could not make it through the first round. I would like to say sorry to the Korean fans for the poor result.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Netherlands secured a spot in the second round with a 4-1 win over Australia.

Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands will play in a group against Japan and Cuba in Tokyo, with games beginning on Friday.

(By Debby Wu / Special to MLB.com)


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