Park was discarded on baseball's trash heap after the Mets tried him and he was destroyed in his only start, then finished the season by going 2-10 with a 6.21 ERA for Houston's Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, Texas.
All the other major league teams, most of whom were desperate for another good arm, looked the other way when his agent met them on the street.
"I was wondering if I would ever pitch again and wondering if I would ever throw in the 90s (mph) again," Park said. "But it was hard for me to give up because I got so many letters, memos and wishes from Korea and from fans. I was wishing and hoping for at least one game or one year that I could play again in the major leagues."
But the still only 34-year-old had not only an acceptable spring training but an excellent one, so good in fact that he made the opening day roster and his actions have made the Dodgers look like geniuses.
Over 16 appearances, one of them a start, he has recorded a pair of wins and a save; has allowed only nine earned runs in 33.2 innings and has posted a 2.41 earned run average.
Twenty-year-old starter Clayton Kershaw proved he was human after all, allowing four runs before leaving in the fourth inning and manager Joe Torre called it "another day in the classroom."
The lesson learned on this night, Kershaw said, was to try to not overthrow his fastball when in trouble. Torre said he would be the fifth starter until further notice.
Park was called upon to bind up the wound and stop the bleeding and he saved the day and Kershaw, getting Dodger-Killer David Wright to end the inning with the bases loaded and working 3.1 innings while allowing only two hits and a tainted run. He earned the win when the Dodgers exploded (you haven't seen that written very often recently) for five runs in the eighth inning and a 9-5 victory.
The Dodgers surprisingly got a pair of two-out doubles in the first inning by James Loney and Russell Martin, then a two-out RBI single by Andre Ethier.
Provided with a rare 3-0 lead in the first inning, Kershaw ran aground immediately, allowing an infield hit to leadoff man Jose Reyes and serving up a home run to Luis Castillo before getting an out.
He then retired seven Mets in succession before walking three in a row and serving up a game-tying sac fly in the third. Staked to a 4-3 lead in the fourth on Martin's fifth home run, he finally was touched for a hit to open the last of the inning. He was also touched for a second and a third hit, leaving after a fielder's choice tied the score and then walking the bases loaded again.
He completed 3.2 innings and allowed only five hits, three in the fourth inning, and had walked four while striking out two. He left the game tied 4-4 but with the bases loaded and two outs and a 5.59 ERA.
Park got an inning-ending ground out, then went on to retire seven in a row himself.
With one out in the seventh, Park allowed a double to Wright and Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally before Fernando Tatis singled to load the bases.
Castillo bounced to Blake DeWitt at third and he looked at home, and it appeared he had time for the force out, but he decided to get he safe out at first, New York taking a 5-4 lead on the play. Another intentional walk preceded an inning-ending strikeout.
Then came the inning Dodgers fans have been waiting for.
Aaron Hellman relieved starter John Maine and the Dodgers fell on him like starving Velociraptors.
Juan Pierre beat out a paper-close infield hit and the New York broadcasters, after numerous replays, declared it a bad call. They would refer to the play numerous times the rest of the broadcast, claiming that it was the deciding play of the game.
In any event, and in quick order, Matt Kemp doubled off the right field wall to score Pierre and tie the game. Jeff Kent singled him in and Loney followed with a single. Martin's fourth hit drove in Kent, a wild pitch scored Loney and with one out. Blake DeWitt singled Martin across.
Five runs. After scoring 12 runs in their previous seven games, they scored more in that inning than the Dodgers have scored in any game since May 22nd.
Jonathan Broxton had one of his patented 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and with a four-run lead, manager Joe Torre went to Takashi Saito, more in the manner of "get back on the horse after you have fallen off mode" after he blew a save in his last outing.
Saito struggled a bit, walking one and hitting one, but added a shutout inning to close the game out.
The victory, which ended a four-game losing streak, was only the second for the Dodgers in their last eight games, but it was enough to move them another game closer to the first-place Diamondbacks.
Third base coach Larry Bowa, the "bad cop" to Torre's "good cop" pointed out that maturation isn't something that occurs overnight, that it will take time for the kind of at-bats the youngsters had in the eighth inning to occur with greater frequency.
That being said, he told the players in a team meeting, to stop using their ages as a crutch. "Tampa Bay is young. Florida's young. Arizona's young."
But on this night, the Dodgers went 6-for-9 with runners in scoring position. That's one fewer hit w/RISP than they had gotten in their eight previous games combined.
Dodgers reach the one-third mark with a 27-27 record and have two more games in Shea Stadium. Barring a postseason return, this series marks the final one for the Dodgers at Shea, which is the fifth-oldest stadium in baseball behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field (where the Dodgers just played), Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium.
Since Shea Stadium opened its doors on April 17, 1964, the Dodgers now have a 121-129 record (with two to go) during the regular season and a 2-3 mark during the postseason (2-1 in 1988 NLCS and 0-2 in 2006 NLDS).
Chad Billingsley draws the start in the game this afternoon.
Score by innings Los Angeles 300 100 050 New York 201 100 10 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Pierre lf 4 2 1 0 .275 Kemp cf 5 1 1 1 .302 Kent 2b 4 0 1 0 .248 Hu ss 0 1 0 0 .170 Loney 1b 4 2 2 1 .281 Martin c 4 3 4 1 .326 Ethier rf 4 0 1 0 .305 DeWitt 3b 4 0 2 1 .298 Maza ss-2b 4 0 0 0 .281 Kershaw p 1 0 0 0 .000 Park p 0 0 0 0 .000 Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000 Saito p 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 37 9 12 8 New York 33 5 7 5 2b hits- Loney (10), Martin (9), Kemp (12). HR- Martin (5). RBI- Loney (31), Martin 3 (223), Ethier (0), Kemp (29), Kent (24), DeWitt (28). SB- Pierre (21). LOB- Los Angeles 2, New York (10). Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Kershaw 3.2 5 4-4 4 2 5.59 Park (2-1) 3.1 2 1-1 3 3 2.41 Broxton 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 3.86 Saito 1.0 0 0-0 1 1 1.90 HBP- by Saito. T-3:10. Att- 2,176.Not Yet For Raffy and Other Medical Notes-- Rafael Furcal is unlikely to be ready for the start of the Dodgers' upcoming homestand Monday, Torre said. Furcal, who leads the Dodgers with a .366 average but hasn't played since May 5, visited back specialist Dr. Michael Watkins who recommended that Furcal continue to strengthen his trunk as a means of relieving pressure from his back. The Dodgers are 19-14 when Furcal is their starting shortstop and 9-13 when he isn't, after Friday's victory.
Backup catcher Gary Bennett, on the disabled list because of a foot injury, will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Inland Empire on Monday. Bennett has been in Vero Beach working on his problem of returning throws to the mound.
Andruw Jones, who underwent surgery on his right knee Tuesday, is walking without crutches, riding a stationary bicycle and lifting weights.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Hitting coach Mike Easler laughed when asked about the Dodgers' recent power outage. "Power?" he asked. "We've been out of everything." Over the last 13 games, the Dodgers averaged less than three runs a game. In the last week, they hit .218 as a team. With the team slumping, Easler said he made sure to emphasize during a team meeting that he was always available to them. A few hours before the game Friday, Easler said, there was a line of players waiting outside the batting cages to work with him. "It was a beautiful thing, man," Easler said. "They've got that fight." ...Brad Penny went 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA in April, but after Thursday's loss to the Mets he ends May at 1-4 with an 8.82 ERA. ...The Dodgers have hit at least one homer in 27 of its 54 games and have posted an 19-8 record in those games, while the club is 8-19 when no one goes deep during the game. ...New York and Los Angeles rank first and second in the National League over the past two seasons in stolen bases. Since the start of 2007, the Mets have swiped 250 bases while the Dodgers have stolen 187. New York's success rate has been higher, though, as the Mets have an 80.6 stolen base percentage while the Dodgers are at 75.5. ...With Clayton Kershaw on the mound the Dodgers' lineup was the youngest in the Majors, if not Los Angeles Dodger history. There are 11 players on the active roster who are 26 years old or less – Chad Billingsley (23), Jonathan Broxton (23), Kershaw (20), Cory Wade (25), Russell Martin (25), Blake DeWitt (22), Chin-lung Hu (24), James Loney (24), Andre Ethier (26), and Delwyn Young (25). ...On May 30, 1962, Maury Wills became the first Los Angeles Dodger and second player in franchise history to homer from both sides of the plate. In the 45-plus years since, only five other Dodgers have accomplished that feat – Jim Lefebvre (1966), Wes Parker (1966), Eddie Murray (twice in 1990), Milton Bradley (twice in 2005) and Jose Cruz Jr. (2005). The only switch-hitters on the active roster are Delwyn Young and Terry Tiffee.