Twins take Byung Ho Park off 40-man roster to sign reliever

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Twins have designated slugger Byung Ho Park for assignment following a disappointing major league debut in 2016.

The Twins made the potentially expensive move on Friday so they could make room on the 40-man roster for right-handed reliever Matt Belisle, who finalized a $2.05 million, one-year contract with the Twins after posting a career-best 1.76 ERA last season for Washington.

The 30-year-old Park batted .191 with 12 home runs and 24 RBIs in 62 games last season. The Twins paid his South Korean club, the Nexen Heroes, $12.85 million for negotiating rights. Then Park signed a $12 million, four-year contract with Minnesota.

With $9.75 million remaining on his current deal, Park is unlikely to be claimed off waivers by another team. If he's not, the Twins could bring him to spring training as a non-roster player and assign him to the minors for more development.

Despite accumulating a .951 on-base-plus-slugging percentage over nine seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, becoming one of the country's most celebrated players and batting .343 with 53 homers and 146 RBIs in 140 games in 2015, Park was overmatched by major league pitching. At the time of his demotion to Triple-A Rochester on July 1, he led the Twins with 80 strikeouts in only 215 at-bats.

Coaches and players raved about his attitude and character, but Park was overwhelmed by the frustration of hitting failures and the pressure he felt by it. Then after batting .224 with 10 home runs and 19 RBIs in 31 Triple-A games, Park underwent surgery on his right wrist to repair a damaged tendon.

A natural first baseman, Park's time in the field was limited by Joe Mauer's place in the lineup. The move puts Kennys Vargas in line to be the primary designated hitter.

The entire amount of Belisle's contract is guaranteed, even if he's released during spring training. The 36-year-old's entire major league career has been in the National League since a 2003 debut as an aspiring starter, before transitioning to the bullpen exclusively in 2009. He has a 4.20 ERA over 834 innings with Cincinnati, Colorado, St. Louis and Washington.

Belisle pitched 46 innings in 2016, missing seven weeks in the first half of the season with a strained calf muscle in his right leg. He issued only seven walks, with 32 strikeouts while working mostly in the sixth and seventh innings.

The slider-heavy Belisle, who will wear the unusual-for-a-pitcher No. 9 for the Twins, ought to be a boost to a bullpen that was the worst in the American League last year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA. The returning core includes right-handers Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Pressly and left-handers Glen Perkins and Taylor Rogers.

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