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S. Korean WBC players to enter training camp next week

All Headlines 08:49 February 08, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- Members of the South Korean national baseball team for the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC) will gather in Seoul next week before heading to Taiwan for training camp, officials said Friday.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said players named to the provisional roster for the March 2-19 WBC will be called into a meeting at a Seoul hotel next Monday. Ryu Joong-il, the national team manager, and three players will address the media at 3:30 p.m. Monday, according to the KBO. The team will then fly out to Taiwan, the site of the camp and also their opening round play, on Tuesday.

In the first round, South Korea has been paired with Taiwan, Australia and the Netherlands in Pool B. It will open the tournament against the Netherlands on March 2, followed by Australia on March 4 and Taiwan on March 5.

The top two nations after the round-robin play will advance to the second round, which will take place in Japan. Two potential second round opponents are Japan, the two-time defending WBC champion, and Cuba.

South Korea reached the semifinals at the inaugural WBC in 2006 and was runner-up to Japan in 2009.

South Korea has selected 28 players for the provisional team. Most of them play for KBO teams, and they've been in overseas spring training camps with their respective clubs.

One pitcher from the national team, Park Hee-soo of the SK Wyverns, has already begun training on his own in Taiwan with the national team pitching coach, Yang Sang-moon, after his Wyverns club deemed him to be behind schedule in his offseason preparations.

South Korea currently has 13 pitchers and 15 position players. The KBO has said the final roster, which will also have 28 players and at least 13 pitchers, will be submitted on Feb. 20.

The country has gone through seven roster changes already, as player after player pulled out because of injuries and commitments to their pro teams.

At this year's WBC, South Korea will be without its only two active Major League Baseball (MLB) players. Choo Shin-soo, an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds, and Ryu Hyun-jin, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, have opted to take part in spring training for their respective clubs rather than compete at the WBC. Both have been integral members of previous national teams.

Several key pitchers, including former MLB left-hander Bong Jung-keun and 2008 KBO MVP Kim Kwang-hyun, have been sidelined with injuries.

Without Ryu and Kim, right-hander Yoon Suk-min, the 2011 KBO MVP for the Kia Tigers, will be counted on to be the top starter for South Korea. Yoon has pitched well internationally, with his quality start in South Korea's 10-2 win over Venezuela, stacked with MLB stars, in the 2009 WBC semifinals as a prime example.

Yoon will try to make an impression on big league scouts with another solid performance at this year's WBC. He becomes a free agent after the end of the 2013 season. He has said he would like to pitch in the MLB someday.

With pitch count limits in effect, the role of relief pitching will be magnified at the WBC. Despite its decimated pitching staff, South Korea still boasts a deep, talented bullpen, led by Oh Seung-hwan, a lights-out closer for the Samsung Lions who holds the KBO record with 249 career saves, and Chong Tae-hyon, a veteran submarine pitcher who helped South Korea win the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In Taiwan, the national team will play the NC Dinos, a KBO expansion team, and a Taiwanese professional club during the training camp.

All opening round matches will be played at Taichung Intercontinental Stadium.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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