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Top S. Korean closer Oh Seung-hwan willing to pitch in middle relief in WBC

All Headlines 16:06 February 14, 2013

DOU LIOU CITY, Taiwan, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- The all-time saves leader in the top South Korean baseball league said Thursday he is willing to pitch in any relief role at the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC).

Oh Seung-hwan, the right-handed closer for the Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), said it does not matter who will pitch the final inning for South Korea.

"Whoever is playing well at the moment should take the field," Oh told reporters during a break from the national team's practice at Dou Liou Baseball Stadium in Taiwan. "I don't care about my role. I could pitch in middle relief."

South Korea has opened its training camp here to prepare for the March 2-19 WBC. The first round for South Korea will open against the Netherlands on March 2 in Taichung, north of Dou Liou, followed by games against Australia on March 4 and Taiwan on March 5.

South Korea will need to be among the top two clubs to advance to the second round, which will take place in Tokyo.

South Korea reached the semifinals at the inaugural WBC in 2006, and followed that up with a runner-up finish at the next WBC in 2009. Oh pitched in both of those earlier tournaments, recording one save in six appearances spanning four innings.

The 30-year-old, who made his KBO debut in 2005, is already the league's career leader with 249 saves. Oh will become a free agent after the 2013 season and could test the foreign market if the Lions give him consent.

This year's WBC could be the final chance for Oh to make an impression on international scouts. But the pitcher said he has put aside his personal ambitions for the team's goal.

"Every relief pitcher on the national team is a closer or a key bullpen pitcher on their respective pro clubs," Oh said. "I don't necessarily have to be the last pitcher. We all have the same purpose (of winning the title)."

Though he may be deferring to his teammates, Oh isn't lacking any self-assurance.

"I am completely healthy and I began my preparation early," he said. "So I am pretty confident I can do well."

He declined to speculate on his future beyond the upcoming season, saying he will need the Lions' consent before he can make any move.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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