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Baseball champion Lions eyeing fourth consecutive title: manager

All Headlines 15:50 March 05, 2014

SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- The Samsung Lions have won the past three championships in the top domestic baseball league, and the goal this year is to extend the impressive streak, the team's manager said Wednesday.

After the Lions wrapped up their 50-day spring training in Guam and then in Okinawa this week, Ryu Joong-il made it clear that he won't settle for anything less than another title.

"Our objective this year is of course to win our fourth consecutive championship," Ryu was quoted as saying in the Lions' press release. "We expect this to be a difficult season for us, and it'll be important for some new players to step up and for veterans to stay healthy."

The Lions last year became only the second Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club to win the championship Korean Series in at least three straight years. The Haitai (currently Kia) Tigers remain the only club to win four Korean Series in a row, from 1986 to 1989, and the Lions could join that exclusive company in 2014.

"I told our players to forget about our three championships and to start fresh," Ryu added. "We worked even harder in our spring training than before."

Ryu will be short-handed in 2014, after the Lions' closer Oh Seung-hwan, the KBO's all-time leader in career saves, signed with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan as a free agent in December.

Ryu said no one has impressed him enough to take over as the closer and he hopes to find one for the job during the preseason, which begins on Saturday.

The Lions were dealt another blow last month when their right-hander J.D. Martin, a new offseason acquisition, suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him out of action for up to two months.

In his starting rotation, Ryu will have four returnees from 2013, including Bae Young-soo, who won a team-high 14 games, and the Dutch right-hander Rick van den Hurk. Cha Woo-chan, a spot starter who went 10-7 last year, and Baek Jeong-hyun, 1-1 as a reliever in 2013, will battle for the one remaining spot in the rotation, the manager added.

The Lions also signed a former major leaguer Yamaico Navarro, and Ryu said he is a candidate to be the team's primary leadoff man in the absence of Bae Young-seob, who began his mandatory military service after last season.

"I know we will be the target for all the other teams in the league," Ryu said. "We just have to go with the flow and try to beat them."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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