MIAMI — Chan Ho Park got his cutter from Mariano Rivera. Park got an injection of enthusiasm from his Pirates teammates. Park got support from everyone from Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley to Pirates manager John Russell.
All those ingredients added up Friday to a major league record: 124 career victories, the most by an Asian-born pitcher. Two weeks after tying Hideo Nomo, Park is now alone in first place.
“It’s very special,” Park said. “It makes me think about 17 years ago when I first came here. I think about the people who brought me here and who helped me.”
Park tossed three scoreless innings in the Pirates’ 5-1 victory against the Marlins. He dominated the Fish, striking out six of the nine batters he faced.
“I did, huh? It’s pretty cool,” Park said, grinning. “The cutter, which I’ve been working on, I saw Mariano (Rivera) throw it a lot earlier in the season with the Yankees. I learned the grip from him and I’ve been working on it all year. I didn’t have confidence on it during a game until tonight. I was aggressive, every pitch.”
Park began the season with the Yanks, but was put on waivers and claimed by the Pirates on Aug. 4.
“I was a little disappointed because I thought the Yankees were going to be a playoff team and maybe will win the World Series,” Park said. “But I knew this would be a big chance for me, so I prepared for the rest of the season. I wanted to achieve my goal. Now that I’ve done it, it’s very special. It’s great for my family and for my fans back in Korea.”
It took Park only a little while to feel at ease with the Pirates.
“This team has a lot of young kids,” Park said. “After my first couple weeks here, I began to feel awesome. This is a great — great players and talent. They respect me as a veteran and that makes me pretty happy. I feel comfortable here.”
Park has made a positive impact on the camaraderie in the bullpen. A few nights ago, Park took pitchers Daniel McCutchen and Brad Lincoln out for a Korean barbecue dinner.
“He’s a great guy with a great sense of humor,” McCutchen said. “And, as you saw tonight, he still has it, baseball-wise. ‘Chop’ went out there and was filthy.”
After the game, there were whoops and a beer shower for Park as he walked into the clubhouse. He’ll take a lot of souvenirs back to home to Korea this offseason.
“Skipper (Russell) told me he’ll give me the lineup card,” Park said. “I’ve got the ball. Everything I used, even my socks and underwear, I’m going to keep. It’s all very special.”