Visa problems force Park out of start

Visa problems force Park out of start

JUPITER, Fla. -- It happens every spring, though this one is a variation on the theme. Korean pitcher Chan Ho Park, already in the country and in the Mets' camp, was prevented from making his scheduled start Friday against the Cardinals because he had yet to receive his work visa and couldn't pitch in a game for which admission was charged.

The solution the Mets created had Park pitch in the morning in simulated game conditions in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Aaron Sele opposed the Cardinals in Jupiter. Park pitched two innings and faced two extra batters to get his pitch count to 35. He walked a batter, struck out four and allowed two hits and a run.

"It was a different intensity than the normal Major League games, but I was focusing on my work instead of hitters," Park said. "I was happy with what I did."

The visa problem developed because Park signed shortly before spring camp opened and didn't have sufficient time to return to Korea to get the visa. He said the Mets initiated efforts to obtain one after he arrived in camp. The club expects to obtain the visa some time next week, preferably in time to allow Park to pitch Wednesday against the Red Sox on his normal fifth day.

After winning 13 or more games in five straight seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Park struggled after signing a $65 million, five-year contract with the Texas Rangers before the 2002 season. In three-plus seasons with Texas, Park won just 22 games while never having an ERA under 5.46. Last season, Park went 7-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 21 starts and three relief appearances with the San Diego Padres.

"I'm working on some little mechanic things, so maybe I can focus on that instead of hitters," Park said.

After giving up a run in his first inning, Park settled down and struck out three of his last five batters. His offspeed pitches fooled the minor leaguers.

Marty Noble is a reporter for The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.