SEATTLE -- A year ago, right-hander Tae-Kyung Ahn was the hottest young pitcher in South Korea. Everybody wanted him. That was before his senior year in high school. That didn't go over too well. "We had a new coaching staff," Ahn explained. "My mechanics changed, and it was hard to get them back."
His problems caused some Major League teams to back off. The Rangers weren't one of them. They kept after him and eventually signed him earlier this summer, their first major acquisition from the increasingly important Pacific Rim talent market. Ahn joined the Rangers on Tuesday afternoon in Seattle on his way to Dallas, throwing for pitching coach Andy Hawkins and bullpen coach Jim Colborn in the bullpen before Tuesday's game with the Mariners. He'll have a physical in Dallas and then go to the instructional league in Arizona at the end of the week. "He's another strong arm and another good-looking prospect to add to the Rangers' reservoir of pitching talent," Colborn said. "The goal is to get as many of these guys as we can. A year ago he was probably the highest-profile Korean player. His first two years in high school he was the ace of his pitching staff, and they won some championships. "He didn't do well his senior year. We're hoping whatever went wrong can be rectified, and he can get back into top form. It's a very good opportunity for us. He's a good sign." The Rangers did sign Chan Ho Park as a Major League free agent in 2002, but they have not been big players in the Asian amateur market. They are trying to change that, and last winter they hired Colborn to be their director of Pacific Rim operations. He has extensive experience in Asia as a pitching coach and scout for the Mariners, and was instrumental in their signing of Ichiro Suzuki and former All-Star reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki out of Japan. The Rangers made Colborn their bullpen coach at the end of July, but they still want to be strong in Asia and getting Ahn was a first step in that direction. "It was significant," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're putting a premium on acquiring the best amateur talent in all markets. Hopefully, we're laying roots in a country and region where the Rangers haven't had much of a presence. But he's a very talented pitcher in his own right. We think he has a chance to be a big league pitcher."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.