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(LEAD) Two key S. Korean players survive injury scares at WBC training camp

All Headlines 16:06 February 15, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES Choi's injury situation in para 3)

DOU LIOU CITY, Taiwan, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- Two key members of the South Korean team at the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC) survived injury scares during training camp here on Friday.

Third baseman Choi Jeong took a grounder to his left eye during a defensive drill at Dou Liou Baseball Stadium, where the team is getting ready for the March 2-19 WBC. As Choi attempted to backhand the ball, it took a bad hop right in front of him and nailed him just above his left eye.

He sustained a cut of about a centimeter that needed seven stitches at a local hospital, but further tests revealed no structural damage to his left eye, team officials said.

"We'll have to see how he heals tomorrow, which will be our off day, but for now, he looks OK," said manager Ryu Joong-il. "It's fortunate that it didn't break his nose or hit him smack in the eye."

Choi, an All-Star for the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), is the only natural third baseman on the national team. The 25-year-old has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the KBO. He has batted at least .300 and hit 20 homers or more in each of the past three seasons. In 2012, he enjoyed his first "20-20" season with 26 home runs and 20 steals, both career highs, and won his second consecutive Golden Glove in the hot corner.

Shortstop Kang Jung-ho of the Nexen Heroes played third base at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, but he is better suited at his natural position. Slugger Lee Dae-ho, the first baseman for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), played third earlier in his career, but he's a defensive liability there.

Lee Dae-ho almost hurt himself out of the lineup on Friday, too, after spraining his right ankle while running the bases in the morning. He also received treatment and took part in a hitting drill in the afternoon.

"We'll have to monitor his ankle," Ryu said. "But if he can't play defense, we can still use him as a designated hitter."

The team will need every bit of production that Lee can provide from the lineup. Lee enjoyed a successful first season in the NPB, leading the Pacific League with 91 RBIs and ending up second with 24 home runs. Before leaving for Japan, Lee had been one of the most feared sluggers in the KBO for the Lotte Giants.

South Korea has traveled to Taiwan with a provisional roster of 28 players, including 13 pitchers. It plans to submit its final roster, also of 28, on Feb. 20.

The country has already gone through seven roster changes, mostly involving pitchers. After reaching the semifinals at the inaugural WBC in 2006 and finishing second in 2009, South Korean players have said their natural next step would be to win the tournament this year.

South Korea will open its tournament against the Netherlands on March 2 in Taichung, just north of Dou Liou, and then face Australia on March 4 and Taiwan on March 5.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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