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Bears banged up after long, winding postseason

All Headlines 14:30 October 28, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- As one player after another fell by the wayside with injuries, the Doosan Bears have lost the luxury of a deep bench in the Korean Series.

The Bears are clinging to a 2-1 series lead over the Samsung Lions for the supremacy in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Whereas the Lions enjoyed three weeks of break between the end of the regular season and the start of the Korean Series -- as the top seed, they had the bye to the championship final -- the Bears, No. 4 seed, have been playing since the start of the postseason on Oct. 8.

The Bears are trying to become the first team to win the Korean Series after finishing in fourth place during the regular season, but the tight schedule may have finally got to them. They face the prospect of missing at least three regulars for Game 4 scheduled for later Monday.

Third baseman Lee Won-seok injured his left side during an at-bat in Game 2 and had to be replaced. Lee, who can provide some pop at the bottom third of the order, had made 11 consecutive postseason starts at the hot corner but missed Game 3 on Sunday.

Second baseman Oh Jae-won hurt his hamstring in the seventh inning of Game 3, as he rounded third base en route to scoring Doosan's second run in the 3-2 loss.

Oh winced and grabbed the back of his left thigh half way down the third baseline and fell to the ground in pain as soon as he crossed the home plate. He was carried off the field, and the Bears' officials said he suffered a partial tear of his quadriceps.

Oh, who led the team with 33 steals in the regular season, had started 11 straight postseason games but is doubtful for the remainder of the Korean Series.

Earlier in the seventh inning Sunday, designated hitter Hong Sung-heun fouled a pitch off his left leg for the second straight game. He stayed down in pain for a few minutes before belting a solo home run in the same at-bat. He limped around the bases and was seen leaving the stadium with his left knee heavily wrapped after the game.

Kim Jae-ho, who'd started the first nine postseason games as shortstop, replaced Lee Won-seok at third base for Game 3. When Oh Jae-won was injured, the versatile Kim shifted over to second base, and Heo Kyeong-min came off the bench to take over third base.

Kim has yet to make an error while playing three different infield positions this postseason. Heo started a nifty double play in the eighth inning Sunday and also offers speed on the base path, having stolen 14 bases in 75 regular season games.

With those utility infielders in the starting lineup, the Bears lose two potential late-inning defensive replacements or pinch running assets from the bench.

If Hong is unable to play, hulking Oh Jae-il could serve as the designated hitter. He launched the go-ahead solo shot off the vaunted Samsung closer Oh Seung-hwan in the 13th inning of Game 2. If Oh Jae-il starts, though, the Bears lose a valuable power bat from the bench who could also spell Choi Jun-seok at first base.

After finishing fourth in the regular season, they had to face the No. 3 club, the Nexen Heroes, in the first round and dispatched them in the hard-fought series that went the full five games.

After getting one day off, the Bears faced the well-rested LG Twins, who had the bye to the second round after finishing second in the regular season. The Bears took the best-of-five series in four games and earned themselves three days of break before the Korean Series against the Samsung Lions.

When building his 27-man Korean Series roster, manager Kim Jin-wook dropped an infielder Choi Ju-hwan in favor of a right-handed reliever Kim Myung-sung. The move could haunt the Bears should they suffer any more injuries to their position players.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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