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(WBC) Bright spots in bullpen for S. Korea despite early exit

All Headlines 08:46 March 06, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho

TAICHUNG, Taiwan, March 6 (Yonhap) -- Though South Korea was knocked out of the first round at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Tuesday, the country did have some bright spots, particularly in the bullpen.

South Korea opened the tournament with a 5-0 loss to the upstart Netherlands. It came back to shut out Australia 6-0, but needing a six-run victory over Taiwan in its final game to advance, South Korea managed only a 3-2 win.

The 2-1 record in the first round wasn't good enough for the 2009 WBC runner-up, but the bullpen pitchers cannot be blamed.

Oh Seung-hwan, the all-time saves leader in the top domestic league, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), was easily the most dominant relief pitcher for South Korea. He appeared in all three games, striking out six in 2 2/3 innings without giving up a hit or a walk.

It was a bounce-back performance for Oh, who only made two appearances in South Korea's dramatic run to the final at the 2009 WBC and was tagged with a loss in an inning of work.

The pending free agent also drew plenty of attention from major league scouts watching WBC games in Taiwan. Known for his heavy fastball and slider, the Samsung Lions closer was one of the few pitchers in midseason form, hitting 151 kilometers per hour (93.8 miles per hour) on the speed gun.

Left-handed reliever Park Hee-soo made a successful international debut, throwing three effective innings. Against Australia, he entered the game with no outs and a runner on second in the fifth, and left it without giving up a run over 1 1/3 innings. Then against Taiwan, he inherited a runner on first with one out in the fifth and kept the opponent off the board over 1 2/3 innings.

The 29-year-old had been tabbed as the best left-handed option in the bullpen, especially after Bong Jung-keun, a former major leaguer and a veteran of the first two WBCs, pulled out with a shoulder injury.

Park had an ominous start to his preparation. He was sent home from the training camp of his KBO club, the SK Wyverns, in late January for not meeting the team's standards for conditioning. Park traveled to Taiwan to begin his WBC prep with the national team pitching coach, Yang Sang-moon, well before the rest of the national team arrived. The head start appeared to have paid off in the form of two scoreless appearances.

The South Korean offense left much to be desired in the first round. Most of the batting stats are inflated, since South Korea picked up 11 of its 23 hits against the lowly Australian pitching and only four of its total hits went for extra bases.

Lee Dae-ho, the slugging first baseman for the Japanese club Orix Buffaloes, led the team with five hits in 11 at-bats, and tied two others for the team lead with two RBIs. His offensive performance, though, was somewhat negated by his mediocre fielding at first base, especially against the Netherlands.

Lee Seung-yeop, a veteran Samsung Lions first baseman, contributed with three doubles and three runs scored in three games in what may have been his final international appearance for South Korea.


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